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Pope Francis planning Indonesia visit, minister says

JAKARTA — Indonesia Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi on Wednesday (April 3) said Pope Francis was planning a visit to the predominantly Muslim country and discussions were ongoing with the Vatican about the trip.

"Yes, Pope Francis plans to visit Indonesia. We are currently preparing everything now," Retno told Reuters, but provided no timeframe.

The Vatican's foreign minister Archbishop Paul Gallagher in an interview last month with Jesuit magazine America said Pope Francis planned to visit Indonesia, Singapore, East Timor, Papua New Guinea in early September, and possibly Vietnam.

The Vatican has yet to confirm dates for the Asia trip, which would be one of the most taxing for Francis, who is 87 and whose health has been poor recently, forcing him to cancel some engagements including some Easter events last week.

Indonesian media reports, citing the religious affairs minister, have said Francis would visit in September.

Indonesia is the world's most populous Muslim nation and its eight million Catholics represent about three per cent of the total population of about 270 million people.

The Philippines and East Timor are the only predominantly Catholic countries in Asia.

Indonesia has been visited by two popes before. The first, Pope Paul VI in a 1970 trip to Jakarta and in 1989, Pope John Paul II, who visited Jakarta and four other cities.

Pope Francis expected to visit Singapore in September as part of Asia-Pacific tour: Catholic media