Scheduled for a four-day trip to Japan starting Nov 23 ( Saturday), Pope Francis has just become the first pontiff to travel to the country in 38 years.
Upon arriving on a special plane at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport Saturday night, the pope is set to visit the atomic-bombed cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki the following day and call on the world to abolish nuclear weapons.
Pope Francis to Deliver Message of Hope and Peace in Japan
For his agenda on his first visit to Japan, Pope Francis will travel to Nagasaki and deliver a “message on nuclear weapons” at the Atomic Bomb Hypocenter Park. Then, he is to hold a mass at a baseball stadium in the southwestern Japan city, as shared in a report by the Japan Times.
Later in the evening that day, the pope will move to Hiroshima to hold a “meeting for peace” at the Peace Memorial Park near Ground Zero, where the western Japan city’s anniversary ceremony for the atomic attack takes place every August.
Since he was elected as Roman Catholic pontiff in 2013, the 82-year-old Argentine has repeatedly appealed for the abolition of nuclear weapons.
After sharing his message on nuclear weapons in the two cities, the pope is due to return to the capital, meeting on Monday with survivors of the earthquake and tsunami that devastated northeastern Japan in March 2011.
Later in the day, the pope will then meet Emperor Naruhito, who ascended the Chrysanthemum Throne on May 1, and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Just before proceeding to his meeting with the Prime Minister, the pope will hold a large-scale mass at Tokyo Dome, to which he has invited Iwao Hakamada, an 83-year-old man who was sentenced to death for a quadruple murder but granted a retrial and release in 2014 under a district court ruling following 48 years of imprisonment.
As per the Vatican, the pope has no plan to meet with Hakamada, but attention is focused on whether a meeting will take place and if the pope will issue some form of message to Japan on its death penalty system.
It can be recalled that Pope John Paul II, the last pope to visit Japan, also went to Hiroshima and Nagasaki in February 1981 as the first pontiff to travel to the country and called for the elimination of nuclear arms.
Pope Francis was able to fulfill his dream to be a missionary in Japan during his three-day visit in the country with two main tasks at hand: to appeal for nuclear disarmament and to minister to a tiny Catholic flock with a rich but bloody history.
Japan is one of the Asian countries where Catholics are a minority — less than 0.5% of Japan’s 127 million people, most of them loosely affiliated with Buddhism or Shinto, or both.
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