VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis said on Wednesday (Sep 12) that he would like to make a trip to Japan next year, which would make him only the second pope to visit the country.
He expressed his desire in unprepared remarks to members of a Japanese religious association visiting the Vatican.
"I take advantage of this visit of yours to tell you of my desire to visit Japan next year. Let's hope it can be done," he said.
The Argentine pontiff has repeatedly said he wants to visit Japan. He had wanted to work as a missionary there in his youth but abandoned his plan after an operation on his lung.
Pope John Paul visited Japan in 1981 as part of a trip to Asia.
On Wednesday, the Pope received delegates from the Tensho Kenoho Shisetsu Kenshokai Association, commemorating a visit in 1585 of four young Japanese men accompanied by Jesuit missionaries.
The Pope noted that the 1585 journey to visit pope Gregory XIII was the first by Japanese to Europe and took more than eight years.
"Yours is shorter and less tiring," he joked. "But I hope you feel welcomed by the Pope as they were."
The Pope hailed the association's work to fund training for the young and orphans.
"You wish to show that religion, culture and the economy can work together peacefully to create a more humane world marked by an integral ecology."