Pope Francis will visit Thailand and Japan in November in a visit expected to highlight his call for complete nuclear disarmament and honour the small Catholic communities in each country.
The Vatican confirmed the trip to Asia from 19th to 26th November.
The Holy Father will be in Thailand from 20th to 23rd November before heading to Japan.
There has not been a papal visit to Thailand since the late St John Paul II arrived in 1984.
The pope’s Japanese visit will include Tokyo as well as Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which were hit by US atomic bombs at the end of the Second World War.
He has repeatedly called for a world without nuclear weapons.
The pope will meet Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe and emperor Naruhito during the visit.
Government spokesman Yoshihide Suga said: “We welcome the visit as a way to gain understanding of the international community about atomic bombing.”
Japan has not had such a visit since St John Paul II became the first pope to visit the country, in 1981. Japan’s main religions are Buddhism and Shintoism, but it has about 441,000 Catholics, many in Nagasaki.
The city in south-western Japan has a rich history of Christian missionaries dating back to the samurai era, including 26 martyrs who were killed in 1597.
Picture: A nun holds souvenir booklet of Pope Francis at a hospital where Vatican’s diplomatic representative in Thailand, Archbishop Paul Tschang In-Nam announces the forthcoming visit of Pope Francis in Bangkok, Thailand, on Friday 13th September 2019. Pope Francis will visit Thailand and Japan in November in a visit expected to highlight his call for complete nuclear disarmament and honour the small Catholic communities in each country. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit).