19 May 2014, The Tablet

Pope to visit native Argentina in 2016, say local government officials

Pope Francis has set a date for his first visit home, authorities in Argentina have claimed.

Following an invitation by the country’s bishops last year, Francis will reportedly visit the north of the country in July 2016. The Vatican has not confirmed the visit.

A regional government in the north-west of Argentina said Francis' trip would coincide with both the National Eucharistic Congress that month and the 200th anniversary of Argentine independence on 9 July.

The announcement follows a papal audience with ministers on 23 April. Ministers met Francis at his Wednesday audience, and afterwards each had a few minutes alone talking with him, Vice-governor Andres Costas Sosto of the Tucuman region told Argentine newspaper La Nacion. “He told us all to pray for him and he confirmed to all of us the trip in 2016,” he said.

Argentina’s ambassador to the Holy See said that Francis had expressed “the intention” to make the trip but said that no official announcement had been made.

Francis will be able to make use of his newly reissued Argentine passport. He surprised Vatican-watchers recently when he had his documents renewed, even though, as head of the Vatican state, he now has a diplomatic passport.

After flying to the Holy Land this weekend, Francis will visit South Korea in August and the Vatican said today a trip to the Philipines and Sri Lanka was "under study" for early next year. He is widely expected to visit the US in September 2015.

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