Following the announcement of the pope’s upcoming visit to Indonesia, Cardinal Suharyo Hardjoatmodjo, archbishop of Jakarta and president of the Indonesian Catholic Bishops’ Conference, reiterated the significance of building religious tolerance, peace, and unity — particularly among Christians and Muslims — within the country. 

“The national mosque, called Istiqlal, meaning liberty, or freedom, lies just in front of the Catholic cathedral in Jakarta,” Hardjoatmodjo said in a video message. “The national mosque was intentionally built at this site as a symbol of harmony.”

Benedictus Nuwa, an Indonesian Claretian missionary currently studying interreligious dialogue at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome, believes Pope Francis’ visit to his homeland will bring a “message of peace, social justice, freedom of religion, and worship” and be key in strengthening the “relationship and dialogue between Catholics and Muslims.” 

Though Nuwa expressed pride in the ethnic and religious diversity present in his country, he also expressed concern about the discrimination and persecution against minorities occurring in parts of the country. “There are still groups that are intolerant to differences,” he said. “The Indonesian people in general and the government in particular must not close their eyes to these facts.” 

Pope Francis’ upcoming visit to Indonesia will mark the third papal journey to Indonesia. Paul VI visited Indonesia in 1970 followed by St. John Paul II in 1989.--Vatican News