Pope to preside over interfaith meeting in Indonesian mosque


Pope Francis will preside over an interfaith meeting in a mosque in the world's largest predominantly Muslim country during a four-nation Asian visit in September that will be the longest and most complicated foreign trip of his pontificate.

The Vatican on Friday released the itinerary for Francis' Sept. 2-13 trip to Indonesia, East Timor, Papua New Guinea and Singapore. The packed schedule makes clear that the 87-year-old pontiff, who has battled health problems and is increasingly reliant on a wheelchair, has no plans to slow down.

After a day of rest upon arrival in Jakarta on Sept. 3, Francis launches into a typically rigorous round of protocol visits to the four countries' heads of state and government, speeches to diplomats and meetings with clergy and public Masses in each location. In Jakarta, he'll preside over an interfaith meeting at the capital's Istiqlal Mosque.

Sprinkled in the mix are encounters with young people, poor and disabled people, elderly people and Francis' regular meetings with his Jesuit confreres.

The trip was originally planned for 2020 but was called off because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Francis had to cancel his last planned foreign visit -– a quick trip to Dubai last year to participate in the U.N. climate conference -– because of a recurring case of bronchitis. He has seemed in relatively good form in recent months, including during day trips to Italian cities and visits to Roman parishes.

But in recent years, as his mobility has been limited by bad knee ligaments, he has generally stuck closer to home and kept his trips relatively short.

After he returns to Rome in mid-September, he has a four-day visit to Belgium before the end of the month, the only other foreign trip that has been confirmed for the year.