Francis’ travels: a tour of his most iconic visits in a decade of papacy

Pope Francis during his visit to the United States

John Paul II He was known as the “pilgrim Pope.” During his pontificate, he undertook 104 trips abroad, more than all of his predecessors combined, and logged more than 1,167,000 km. But Pope Francisco, in just 10 years of papacy, is not far behind either. With his last trip from January 31 to February 5 to the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan, he reached the 40 official trips abroad, where you have visited 59 countries (He passed through Cuba and Greece twice).

Despite his 86 years, the Pontiff is in good health. Recently, he has undergone a bowel operation and had to be treated for knee pain, which still forces him to use a wheelchair. But that has not prevented him from continuing to travel around the world, as he demonstrated with his first trip in 2023.

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Here are some of the notable trips during his decade as Pope:

Brazil (July 22 to July 29, 2013)

The crowd cheered him in Brazil (REUTERS)
The crowd cheered him in Brazil (REUTERS)

Pope Francis arrived in Rio de Janeiro in July 2013, a journey that had actually been planned for Benedict XVI before his resignation. He visited the country with the most Catholics in the world for a week to participate in the World Youth Day.

It was a trip to, in his words, “meet the youth”. Aboard the plane that was taking him to Brazil, the Pope told reporters that the world risks losing a generation of young people to unemployment and urged a culture of greater inclusion: “The world crisis is not treating the young people. We are running the risk of having a generation that does not work. From work comes the dignity of a person”.

Israel, Jordan and Palestine (May 24 to May 26, 2014)

Pope Francis places his hands on a plaque at the Memorial to the Victims of Terror in Jerusalem (Reuters)
Pope Francis places his hands on a plaque at the Memorial to the Victims of Terror in Jerusalem (Reuters) (OSSERVATORE ROMANO /)

Pope Francis began his first visit to the Middle East escorted by two old Argentine friends, a rabbi and a Muslim leader, on a delicate mission to promote his initiative based on interreligious dialogue as a vehicle for foster peace in the troubled region.

In the course of the visit, Francis met with King Abdullah II in Jordan, prayed at the Israeli West Bank barrier, and also visited the Memorial to the Victims of Acts of Terror with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Sri Lanka and the Philippines (January 13 to January 19, 2015)

Francis in the Philippines
Francis in the Philippines

His visit to the Philippines in January 2015 included the largest papal event in history with around 6 to 7 million attendees at his final mass in Manila under the rain, in which he urged the world to “learn to cry” for the fate of the poor, the hungry, the homeless and the children who have been victims of abuse.

In Sri Lanka, he visited a Buddhist temple, in a surprising act that took place shortly after canonizing the first saint of Sri Lanka at a mass held in Colombo, facing the sea, for more than half a million people.

Cuba and the United States (September 19 to September 27, 2015)

Pope Francis in Cuba (Reuters)
Pope Francis in Cuba (Reuters)

In his first message upon arriving in Havana for a historic visit, Pope Francis on Saturday asked Cuba and the United States to advance their reconciliation to set an example to the world of rapprochement after half a century of enmity. Francisco arrived on the island one day after the US president at the time, Barack Obamaannounce measures to make trade, travel and investment with Cuba more flexible.

In a historic speech before Congress that the United States urged to reject hostility towards immigrants and treat them humanely, directly addressing an issue that divided the country and generated debate in the presidential campaign for the 2016 elections. He also spoke before the General Assembly of the United Nations and celebrated a mass crowd in Philadelphia.

Poland (July 27 to July 31, 2016)

Pope Francis stops before the International Monument to the Victims of Fascism (EFE)
Francisco stops before the International Monument to the Victims of Fascism (EFE) (EFE /)

Francis visited Krakow, the city where Karol Wojtyla he had served as archbishop -whom he canonized two years earlier-, to celebrate World Youth Day 2016.

Leaning on a bench near the entrance gate to the death camp of Auschwitz In Poland, Pope Francis silently prayed for the 1.5 million people, most of them Jews, who died in the gas chambers during the Nazi occupation in World War II.

Colombia (September 6 to September 10, 2017)

In colombia
In colombia

During his visit to Colombia, the Pope called on the world to find ways to end the “scourge” of drug traffickingwhich enriches some at the cost of the death and destruction of others, a call that resonates especially in this country, one of the world’s largest producers of cocaine and facing an increase in the production capacity of the cartels.

During his visit to Colombia, the Argentine Pope emphasized his messages on reconciliation and forgiveness after the peace agreement signed by the Government with the FARC guerrillas to end an internal conflict of more than half a century that has left 220,000 dead and millions displaced.

Chile and Peru (January 15 to January 21, 2018)

During his visit to Peru (AFP PHOTO / OSSERVATORE ROMANO)
During his visit to Peru (AFP PHOTO / OSSERVATORE ROMANO) (AFP /)

Francis closed his visit to Peru with a request to the faithful to fight against the “plague” of femicidein a day in which he also charged against the violence of the hit men and the lack of opportunities for the inhabitants of the region.

The warm welcome given by the Peruvian people contrasted with the colder reception experienced in previous days in Chile, where the Catholic Church has been shaken by various cases of sexual abuse in recent years. there, Francis apologized for sexual abuse committed by priests and sought to build a bridge with the original peoples. After the massive mass, the Pope met privately with victims of the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet.

Thailand and Japan (November 19 to November 26, 2019)

Women during a mass of the Pope in Tokyo (REUTERS / Kim Kyung-Hoon)
Women during a mass of the Pope in Tokyo (REUTERS / Kim Kyung-Hoon) (KIM KYUNG-HOON /)

This trip was the last for Francis before the coronavirus pandemic broke out. In Japan, he appealed to world leaders to ensure that nuclear weapons they will not be used again, one day after visiting Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the only cities hit by atomic bombs in history. Nuclear disarmament has been one of the main issues in the papal visit to Japan, a country scarred by the memory of the two attacks.

condemned the exploitation of women and children after arriving in Bangkok, the capital of Thailand. The Pontiff, who has addressed politicians and diplomats upon his arrival at the Government House of the Asian country, expressed that “his thoughts are with all those women and children of our time, especially those who are injured, are raped and find themselves exposed to all types of exploitation, mistreatment, violence and abuse”.

Iraq (March 5 to March 8, 2021)

Pope Francis prays for the victims of the war in 'Hosh al-Bieaa', the Church Square, in the old city of Mosul, Iraq.  March 7, 2021 (REUTERS/Yara Nardi)
Pope Francis prays for the victims of the war in ‘Hosh al-Bieaa’, the Church Square, in the old city of Mosul, Iraq. March 7, 2021 (REUTERS/Yara Nardi) (Yara Nardi/)

During his stay, Francis visited the capital Baghdad, as well as Mosul and Qaraqosh, the latter two in the north of the country that suffered terror from the jihadists of the Islamic State (IS). In the holy city of Najaf (south), the Pope met with the great Ayatollah Ali Sistania religious reference for the majority of the world’s Shia Muslims.

Pope Francis was eager to meet the Christians of Iraq (1% of the population today, against 6% 20 years ago) and dedicated his first trip abroad to this majority Muslim country in 15 months. “Iraq will always remain with me, in my heart,” she said after a mass in front of thousands of faithful in a stadium in Erbil, in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan (January 31 to February 5, 2023)

On his last trip, to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, he was seen in a wheelchair (REUTERS / Luc Gnago)
On his last trip, to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, he was seen in a wheelchair (REUTERS/Luc Gnago) (LUC GNAGO/)

Pope Francis’ trip to the Democratic Republic of the Congo is the first visit by a pope since John Paul II traveled there in 1985, and when it was still known as Zaire.

During a meeting with the bishops, he invited them to witness reconciliation in a country that lives “in the midst of violence unleashed by the exploitation of resources and by ethnic conflicts”.

Already in South Sudan, Pope Francis reiterated his call for the lay down the weapons of hate and revengein a country trying to get peace accords implemented after a bloody civil war.

He was received with songs and great joy by the country’s Catholics, who represent about 36% of the population and who are enduring a harsh humanitarian crisis due to war, famines and natural disasters, for which reason about 75% of them have to live off international aid.

Infographic by Marcelo Regalado

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