Pope Francis has confirmed that he is planning to travel to Africa in November, specifically to the Central African Republic, Uganda, and possibly Kenya.
During a meeting with hundreds of priests from around the world participating in the Third World Priests Retreat in the Basilica of St. John Lateran on Saturday, the Pope responded to the question from an African priest asking when he planned to come to Africa.
“God willing, I will be in Africa in November. In the Central African Republic first and then Uganda,” he responded.
The pontiff added that it “is possible” that he may also go to Kenya, but said this is not certain, because of organizational challenges.
He also noted that the trip will come “before the presidential transition in the Central African Republic, and Uganda after the 50th anniversary of the martyrs, though a little late.”
The Pope had already announced his intention to travel to Africa – specifically the Central African Republic and Uganda – during a press conference while returning from a trip to Sri Lanka and the Philippines in January.
In September 2014, the bishops of Uganda invited the pontiff to their country to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the canonization of the martyrs of Uganda.
The 22 Ugandan Martyrs were killed by the king in the 1880s for refusing to recant their faith. They were canonized Oct. 18, 1964 by Pope Paul VI in St. Peter’s Basilica.
The Church of Uganda has already begun preparations for the celebration of the Golden Anniversary of the canonization with a diocesan conference on the 22 saints.
Pope Francis’ other destination – the Central African Republic – has been gripped by violence since December 2012.
The country’s conflict began when Seleka rebels, loosely organized groups that drew primarily Muslim fighters from other countries, ousted the president and installed their own leader in a March 2013 coup.
In September 2013, after 10 months of terrorism at the hands of the Seleka, anti-balaka self-defense groups began to form.
The conflict in the nation took on a sectarian character, as some anti-balaka, many of whom are Christian, began attacking Muslims out of revenge for the Seleka’s acts.
The conflict has died down since the presence of international peacekeepers was enlarged in late 2014, but the nation remains unstable.
On May 15, Pope Francis met with bishops from the Central African Republic.