New Delhi: Indian bishops continue to be hopeful about Pope Francis visiting India by the end of this year or early next year, a Church official has said.
“We are still hopeful that the visit (of Pope Francis to India) will take place at least early next year, if not earlier,” Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, the Secretary General of Catholic Bishops Conference of India, told the Deccan Herald.
Media began reporting about the possibility of a papal visit to India after Pope Francis himself told an in-flight press meet in October 2016 that he was “almost sure” of visiting India and Bangladesh in 2017.
The efforts to schedule the visit got momentum after External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj called on Pope Francis during her visit to Vatican for canonization ceremony of Mother Teresa in September 2016.
Media reports said busy schedule of Prime Minister Modi made it impossible to find a set of dates for the papal visit in the first half of 2017, which included the election of a new president.
Modi was busy not only for campaigning in assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh and four other States but also for foreign visits to Sri Lanka, Russia, Germany, Kazakhstan, Spain, France, Netherlands, Portugal and Israel.
Prime Minister is also likely to visit China and Philippines later this year. He is also likely to host leaders of Jordan, Japan, Israel, France and Canada during the coming months. Sources, however, told the DH that efforts were still on to schedule the papal visit towards the end of the year.
A source aware of the discussion between New Delhi and Vatican said that while New Delhi was keen to host Pope Francis, it was also mindful of the fact that a papal visit must be arranged in such a way that the dignity of the pontiff was duly maintained. If a suitable date could not be found this year, the visit would be scheduled sometime in early 2018, he added.
Pope John Paul II was the last pontiff to visit India. He visited as many as 14 cities across the length and breadth of India during his 10-day tour in February 1986. He again visited India in November 1999, but his itinerary then was limited to New Delhi only.
Source: Deccan Herald