An Indonesian official this week said the Muslim country is inviting Pope Francis for a visit to join in the celebration of “religious tolerance.”
“I would love to see Pope Francis in Indonesia to get first-hand experience about the beauty of diversity here and greet Indonesian Catholic followers in person,” said Religious Affairs Minister Yaqut Cholil Qoumas in a statement on Monday, March 7.
“This is our hope that His Holiness will visit Indonesia when the situation returns to normal,” he said, adding that an official of the ministry will be going to the Vatican to extend the official invitation.
Muslims make up more than 80 percent of the Indonesian population while it is estimated that there are 23.5 million Christians living in the Southeast Asian country.
Qoumas this week met with of officials of the Indonesian bishops’ Commission on Inter-religious Relations and Beliefs in Bali.
Last week, a Vatican diplomat announced that Pope Francis will be visiting the country bu the dates are not yet set.
Monsignor Marco Sprizzi, chargé d’affaires of the nunciature in Dili, made the announcement in response to questions from reporters following a meeting with Fidelis Manuel Leite Magalhaes, chairman of the Presidency of the Council of Ministers, on March 1.
The news site Tatoli quoted Msgr. Sprizzi saying that the date of the visit cannot be determined yet “due to different international circumstances.”
“However, Pope Francis’ decision is confirmed to visit Timor-Leste,” he said, adding that “the thoughts of the Holy See are with the Timorese people and State.
Timor-Leste gained independence from Indonesia in 1999 following a decades-long rule occupation. The small nation has a population of just under 1.3 million people, 98 percent of whom are Catholic. Pope St. John Paul II visited the country in 1989.
Papua New Guinea, a predominately Christian nation which occupies the eastern half of New Guinea island, is 26 percent Catholic, according to previous census figures. The western half of New Guinea is a part of Indonesia.