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Maps: Francis travels to 7th country never visited before by a pope

Pope Francis arrives at Rome's Fiumicino airport to board his plane for his trip to Hungary

FILIPPO MONTEFORTE | AFP

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I.Media - published on 08/30/23

Including his trip to Mongolia, Pope Francis will have completed 43 apostolic journeys abroad since 2013 and have visited 61 countries. 

From August 31 to September 4, 2023, Pope Francis will be on his 43rd apostolic journey abroad to Mongolia, making him the first pontiff to visit this Asian country, landlocked between Russia and China.

This will be the seventh time since the start of his pontificate that he will set foot in a country no pope has visited before.

A map showing the countries Pope Francis has visited where no other Pontiff before him had been to

Since his election in March 2013, Pope Francis, frequently dubbed ‘the pope of the peripheries’ has visited Myanmar in 2017, the United Arab Emirates and North Macedonia in 2019, Iraq in 2021, Bahrain in 2022, and then South Sudan in February 2023.

In these countries, the Catholic community often represents a minority. Sometimes even a tiny minority, as in Mongolia, where the number of Catholics in the whole country does not exceed 1,500.

In the footsteps of John Paul II

By visiting this Asian state, Pope Francis will make the trip that John Paul II would have liked to have done exactly 20 years ago. At the time, there were only around a hundred Catholics in the country, but the Polish Pontiff wanted to honor the Mongolian president’s invitation and encourage the small budding community. John Paul II then ordained the first apostolic prefect of Ulan-Bator as a bishop and blessed the foundation stone of the first Catholic church in Mongolia. However, his health prevented him from making the long journey.

This is not the first time that Pope Francis has fulfilled the wishes of his predecessor. By visiting Iraq in March 2021, the Argentine Pope was fulfilling John Paul II’s wish to come and pray in Ur, Abraham’s land of origin. The visit was scheduled for the end of 1999, as part of the preparation for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, as John Paul II wanted to trace the path of the history of salvation. In the end, however, even the United States expressed its opposition to this historic journey, as there were tensions with Saddam Hussein’s regime.

Over 61 countries visited

A map showing all the countries Pope Francis has visited throughout his pontificate

Including his trip to Mongolia, Pope Francis will have completed 43 apostolic journeys abroad since 2013, visiting 61 countries. 

On average, the Argentinian Pope has made four trips abroad per year. He was not able to travel in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, in 2013, when he was elected (in March), he only traveled to one place: Rio de Janeiro in Brazil for World Youth Day. 

This average puts him on the same level as John Paul II, who in his 27-year pontificate made 104 pastoral visits abroad, resulting in nearly four per year on average as well. Pope Benedict XVI had an average of around three trips per year, as he made 24 visits in a little under eight years of pontificate. 

A bar graph showing the average number of trips takes per year by John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Pope Francis

Over 6 months spent abroad

The year in which Pope Francis traveled the most was 2019. He went on seven apostolic trips that year, which took him to Panama, the United Arab Emirates, Madagascar, Japan, and more. Including his trip to Mongolia, Pope Francis will have spent 189 days traveling outside Italy, meaning over 6 months. 

Pope Francis’ longest trip was to Cuba and the United States in 2015, as it lasted from September 19-28, so 10 days. Looking at the map, the 266th Pope has traveled throughout North America and much of South America, except notably his home country of Argentina. 

He has still not set foot in Oceania. A trip to Southeast Asia/Oceania was scheduled for September 2020 but it had to be canceled due to the pandemic. The Pontiff was supposed to visit East Timor, Papua New Guinea, and Indonesia.

The Pope has travelled all across Italy

A map of Pope Francis' travels in Italy

Pope Francis, Bishop of Rome and Primate of Italy, has also traveled extensively throughout the Italian peninsula during his pontificate. 

The Pontiff’s first trip was to the island of Lampedusa in the southeast on July 8, 2013, shortly after his election. Faced with the issue of migration in the Mediterranean, he denounced the “globalization of indifference.” 

The Pope has made more than 30 journeys across Italy, visiting some cities several times. He has visited Assisi, the city of St. Francis, the “Poverello” whose name he chose the day of his election as successor of Peter, six times. 

It took him 10 years, though, to make a private visit. On November 19, 2022, he went to Asti in northern Italy to celebrate his cousin’s 90th birthday, and met with many members of his family.

Tags:
MongoliaPope FrancisTravelVatican
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