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Pope Francis may visit Japan, Mozambique

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis told a group of Japanese visitors to the Vatican that he wants to visit Japan in 2019. And the president of Mozambique announced that Pope Francis plans to visit the country next year.

"Taking advantage of your visit, I would like to announce my desire to visit Japan next year. We hope it is possible to do," the pope said Sept. 12 during a meeting with members of Japan's Tensho Kenoh Shisetsu Kenshoukai, a cultural association.

Pope Francis has received several invitations to visit Japan, including an invitation in 2013 from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

A more recent invitation, according to the Japanese daily The Asahi Shimbun, came from the mayors of Nagasaki and Hiroshima in May; they asked him to visit the two cities that were decimated by atomic bombs in August 1945 and use the occasion to urge world leaders to abolish nuclear weapons.

"The number of 'hibakusha' ('survivors of the atomic bomb attack') who had been exposed to radiation after the dropping of the atomic bombs is declining every year. Please come to Nagasaki and encourage the A-bomb survivors," Nagasaki Mayor Tomihisa Taue reportedly told the pope.

St. John Paul II visited Japan in 1981, including the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. During his visit to the Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima, St. John Paul called on government leaders to stop stockpiling nuclear weapons.

"To those who hold political and economic power, I say: let us pledge ourselves to peace through justice; let us take a solemn decision, now, that war will never be tolerated or sought as a means of resolving differences; let us promise our fellow human beings that we will work untiringly for disarmament and the banishing of all nuclear weapons; let us replace violence and hate with confidence and caring," St. John Paul said Feb. 25, 1981.

As Mozambique President Filipe Nyusi was saying goodbye to the pope at the Vatican Sept. 14, he turned to the journalists present and said, "I would like to announce that next year, the pope is coming to Mozambique!"

"If I'm still alive," Pope Francis responded with a grin.

The pope welcomed Nyusi in the library of the Apostolic Palace. Sitting down at his desk, the pope began the meeting with a lighthearted joke that he has used on several similar occasions, "Do you know the difference between protocol and terrorism? You can negotiate with terrorists."

Accompanied by a Portuguese translator, the pope spoke privately with the head of state for more than 30 minutes.

According to a statement released by the Vatican, Pope Francis and Nyusi discussed "the good relations between the Holy See and Mozambique and the valued contribution of the Catholic Church in several sectors of society."

"The socio-political situation of the nation was then discussed, as well as the process of national reconciliation currently underway with the hope that a stable and lasting peace may be reached," the Vatican said.

The two leaders also exchanged opinions "on the fight against poverty and corruption as well as economic collaboration between Mozambique and other countries."

After concluding their private discussions, the Mozambican head of state introduced his wife and members of his entourage to Pope Francis.

President Nyusi also gave the pope a painting of a little girl writing on a piece of paper.

"She is writing an invitation so that you may visit Mozambique," the president told the pope.

The pope gave Nyusi a split medallion held together by an olive tree and said, "Below the words written are: 'Look for what unites, overcome what divides.'"

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2018