Pope Francis visits Indonesia, Singapore, East Timor and Papua New Guinea

The Pope's next stop on his Southeast Asian tour will be in East Timor's capital, Dili, from September 9-11.

East Timor is a small country on the island of Timor. Gaining independence from Indonesia in 1999, the region has contested national sovereignty following decades of bloody conflict.

More than 97% of East Timor's population of 1 million are Catholic. It is one of the few Catholic majority countries in Southeast Asia.

The Catholic bishop of East Timor, Bishop Carlos Felipe Jimenez Bello, received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1996 along with the country's second president, José Manuel Ramos-Horta, for their efforts to achieve a peaceful and just conflict in the country.

The Vatican confirmed in 2022 that Bello had been under disciplinary restrictions since September 2020 due to allegations of sexual abuse of minors.

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Pope Francis concludes his trip with a trip to the island nation of Singapore from September 11-13.

Singapore has the highest GDP per capita in Asia and the second highest population density of any country in the world. The Archdiocese of Singapore has a diverse population of 395,000 Catholics, offering Masses mainly in English, Chinese, Tamil and other languages ​​from Southeast Asia.

Almost 75% of Singapore's population is ethnic Chinese, with the 2020 census listing 13% of the population as ethnic Malay and 9% as ethnic Indian.

According to the US report on International Religious Freedom, 57.3% of ethnic Indians in Singapore are Hindu, 23.4% Muslim and 12.6% Christian. The ethnic Chinese population consists of Buddhists (40.4%), Christians (21.6%), Taoists (11.6%), and 25.7% with no religion.

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Pope Francis has long expressed a desire to visit Indonesia and other neighboring island nations in Southeast Asia. Papal visits to Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and East Timor have been canceled in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said the full schedule for the Pope's apostolic visit would be released later.

Courtney Mares is the Rome correspondent for Catholic News Agency. A graduate of Harvard University, she has reported from news bureaus on three continents and received a Gardner Fellowship for her work with North Korean refugees.

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