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03/16/2020 Indonesia (International Christian Concern) – Given the prolonged fight against the novel COVID-19 virus, sources in the Vatican said that Pope Francis will no longer visit Indonesia in September this year.

Though the Holy See never confirmed the pope’s visit to Indonesia, Timor-Leste, and Papua New Guinea planned this September, diplomatic sources had said the visit was scheduled. However, officials have now said that due to the Covid-19 pandemic the visit has been called off.

“The cancellation is understandable because now the whole world is fighting Covid-19 and it will remain a serious threat over the next few months,” Father Antonius Benny Susetyo, a member of a presidential unit promoting communal tolerance, told UCA News on March 15.

He still hopes that the pope can visit later, since “His visit will have a positive impact on Indonesia, particularly in strengthening interreligious dialogue,” he said.

His view is echoed by Hermawi Fransiskus Taslim, a Catholic lay leader.

“We pray the Vatican reschedules Pope Francis’ visit so that he can come to Indonesia next year,” said Taslim, chairman of the student communication forum of the Indonesian Catholic Student Association (Forkoma PMKRI). “A visit would boost peace and unity [among religions] in this country.”

In Muslim-majority Indonesia, although the country respects the philosophy of Pancasila, where five religions should coexist and enjoy religious freedom, often followers of Christian faith are discriminated or persecuted by fundamentalist Muslims.

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