Globetrotting Pope keeps his gaze on the peripheries

Mass for 300 in Baku

During a year when he said he won't spare much time for travel, in 2017 Francis will go to Fatima, India, and Bangladesh, and maybe Africa and Colombia. Notably absent on the schedule are Western Europe and North America, writes John Allen.

- Crux

Pope Francis gave his customary in-flight news conference last Sunday, at the end of his three-day trip to Georgia and Azerbaijan. Given that he took up both gender theory and the US elections, it’s not a huge surprise that most of the rest of what the Pontiff said so far has been either played down or ignored.

Along the way, Francis took a question about his travel for the next year. Bear in mind that the outing to Georgia and Azerbaijan was the 16th overseas journey of his Papacy, and at the end of this month he’ll travel to Lund, Sweden, to mark the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.

Here is his answer.

“For sure, as of today, I’ll go to Portugal, and I’ll go only to Fatima. That’s for today. Why? There’s a problem. In this Holy Year, the ad limina visits [of bishops] were suspended; next year, I have to receive the ad limina visits both of this year and next. There’s not much space for trips, but I’ll go to Portugal.”

The term ad limina literally means “to the thresholds,” and it refers to the visits to Rome to see the pope and make the rounds of Vatican offices that bishops are required to make every five years.

“It’s almost certain I’ll go to India and Bangladesh,” the Pope said. “In Africa, there’s not yet a place that’s certain, it depends on the climate during those months, because the situation in northwestern Africa is one thing and in southwestern Africa it’s another. It also depends on the political situation and the wars, but there are possibilities also in Africa.”

“In America, I said that when the peace process in Colombia is complete, I want to go, when everything is ‘bulletproof,’ that is - if the plebiscite succeeds - when everything is for sure, when there’s no turning back, that is, when the international world, all the nations, are in agreement that there’s no appeal, that everything is finished, I could go.”

Obviously, since the plebiscite on the Colombian peace deal narrowly failed on Sunday, those conditions haven’t been met.

The gist of it is, the Pope doesn’t have a lot of time for trips next year, so he’s got to choose carefully. Of course, it’s precisely when a pope has to make hard choices that his real priorities are revealed.

Photo: Pope celebrates Mass in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan (CNS)

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The beat goes on for the Pope of the Peripheries

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