Prime Minister Marape Meets Vatican Officials on proposed Papal Visit to PNG

Thursday 29 February 2024

Prime Minister James Marape meeting  with Monsignor George Koovakad,(seated next to PM) Head of the Vatican delegation, on Wednesday 28 February at his Sir Manasupe House Office. (photo credit: PM’s Media).

Prime Minister Hon. James Marape  says he is pleased to  have had a meeting with an advance team from Vatican City to discuss proposed arrangements and date for the forthcoming visit by the Holy Father, Pope Francis, to PNG this year 2024.

The advance team was led by Monsignor George Koovakad from the Holy See in Rome.

He has already had preliminary discussions with Minister for Foreign Affairs Hon. Justin Tkatchenko to map out a plan for this proposed visit.

At this stage, there are no firmed dates as dates are expected to be confirmed after a second visit by the team in June this year.

The Papal visit is a State Visit and will be guided by strict Vatican protocols and security arrangements.

This will include taking into consideration the Pope’s advanced age at 87 years and his health condition, including his special needs with being wheelchair-bound.

 The Prime Minister was advised that there was an initial plan for the Pope to visit PNG in 2020 but this was canceled and postponed due to COVID-19 pandemic and restrictions on movement.

Prime Minister Marape expressed his appreciation that the Holy Father is visiting Papua New Guinea on the eve of the country’s 49th Independence anniversary.

Prime Minister Marape said the National Government is happy and ready to welcome him and “make the visit a success”.

 It will be the 87-year-old Pontiff’s first visit to the country and the Oceania region. Pope Francis is the 266th and current Pope of the Roman Catholic Church, a title he holds ex officio as Bishop of Rome, and sovereign of Vatican City.

He was born Jorge Mario Bergoglio on 17 December 1936. His predecessor, the late Pope John Paul II visited PNG twice in 1984 and 1995, becoming the first head of the Roman Catholic Church to visit the country.

Making up approximately 30 percent of the population, the Roman Catholic Church is the largest denomination in PNG.

The church’s first mission dates back to 1847 when a group of French missionaries from the Society of Mary arrived on Woodlark Island.

The following year, they also established a mission on Rooke Island.

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