Indonesian Church gets ready to welcome Pope Francis

Cardinal Ignatius Suharyo of Jakarta called Pope Francis’ September visit “an opportunity for Indonesian Catholics to explore and practice his humanitarian messages.”

Apr 10, 2024

The new archbishop of Pontianak (Indonesia), Agustinus Agus, receives the Pallium from Pope Francis during a mass for the new metropolitan archbishops and the solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul on June 29, 2014, at St Peter's Basilica in the Vatican.(Photo by VINCENZO PINTO/AFP)

By Ryan Dagur

Cardinal Ignatius Suharyo of Jakarta called Pope Francis’ September visit “an opportunity for Indonesian Catholics to explore and practice his humanitarian messages.”

“Indeed, the physical presence of Pope Francis is very important and very happy [occasion] for us,” Suharyo said in a video that the Indonesian Bishops' Conference released on April 8, six months ahead of the visit.

The 73-year-old Church leader wanted Catholics to pay attention to Francis’ messages and thoughts as they prepare to celebrate his physical presence in the country.

Papal messages "should also concern us, and we intend to study those messages," he added.

Suharyo said the last two critical papal messages in the Indonesian context were on human responsibility to protect the environment in his encyclical Laudato si and about the importance of maintaining brotherhood in Fratelli tutti.

Suharyo described them as brilliant ideas “not in the sense of being great, but very important for the history of mankind in our time.”

The cardinal further hoped that the physical presence of the pope would encourage Indonesian Catholics to study his teachings and try to find ways to implement them.

The video showed Suharyo speaking with Bishop Antonius Subianto Bunjamin of Bandung, president of the bishops’ conference.

Subianto said the conference deliberately announced the pope's visit on Annunciation Day because it was good news for Indonesia.

He said Pope Francis is scheduled to visit Indonesia from Sept. 3 to 6, as communicated by Msgr Piero Pioppo, the apostolic nuncio to Indonesia, in a note to the country's minister of foreign affairs on March 5.

“Of course, the certainty of Pope Francis' arrival to Indonesia is still waiting for an official announcement from the government and the Vatican,” Subianto said.

Suharyo said the papal visit was "not only for Indonesia but a long journey, from Indonesia to Papua New Guinea, to Timor Leste, to Singapore and possibly also to Vietnam."

“I don't think there has ever been a visit covering five countries as far away as ours,” he said.

With visits to various countries, he said, the pope will certainly not have much time for Indonesia.

“Catholics throughout Indonesia want to shake hands with the pope one by one, but we all know that is impossible," the cardinal added.

Suharyo said the visit was historical because the Vatican State was one of the first few countries to recognize Indonesia after its independence in 1945.

Bishop Petrus Canisius Mandagi of Merauke in South Papua province said the pontifical visit could strengthen the faith of Indonesian Catholics.

"Hopefully, with this visit, Indonesian Catholics will become more courageous in voicing the truth and become an example for people of other religions in terms of truly religious life, namely love above all, as the pope always emphasizes," he told UCA News on April 8.

Minister of Religion Yaqut Cholil Quomas confirmed the news about the pope's visit to Indonesia in a March 30 statement.

Christians account for 24 million of Indonesia's estimated population of more than 270 million. Catholics number about 7 million.

The country has six organized religions — Buddhism, Catholicism, Confucianism, Hinduism, Islam, and Protestantism — and around 200 traditional beliefs.

Pope Francis will be the third pope to visit the world’s largest Muslim-majority country after the visits of Pope Paul VI in December 1970 and Pope John Paul II in October

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