By Andrea Gagliarducci
This possibility is suggested by gaps in the papal events schedule published on the website of the Prefecture of the Pontifical Household. The prefecture coordinates and prepares all the Pope’s audiences and visits in the Vatican and oversees the arrangements for the Pope’s pastoral visits to Rome and to Italy.
The schedule is published every six months. The latest version includes all papal events from January to June 2016.
Currently, the schedule labels two Angelus prayers and a general audience as “cancelled.” The Pope will not hold the Angelus May 22 or June 26, nor will he hold the June 22 general audience.
This means that the Pope could have time for one short international trip in May and a longer one in June.
At present, this interpretation of the schedule is just speculation. But sources confirmed to CNA that a Papal trip to Armenia is likely in the course of the year.
These sources are corroborated by the remark of Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches, during his visit to Armenia in September 2015. He raised the possibility of a 2016 papal visit to the country.
In response to a question on whether Pope Francis was willing to visit, Cardinal Sandri told the press agency Ria Novosti that Pope Francis “wishes with all of his heart to go to Armenia,” and that he already “welcomed the invitation Armenian president Serzh Sargsyan made to Pope Francis” last year. Cardinal Sandri noticed that, though “the Pope has a busy schedule,” he hopes “the Pope will find some time to go to Armenia.”
Pope Francis himself expressed his wish to go to Armenia in his Nov. 30 press conference in the flight from Central Africa. In the year 2014, he said, “I promised the three (Armenian) Patriarchs that I would go: the promise has been made. I don’t know if it will be possible, but I did promise.”
The Pope might have time to go to Armenia in June, when a general audience and the consecutive recitation of the Angelus have been cancelled. This means that the Pope will have at least four days to visit the country, from June 22 to June 26.
There are even more options for an eventual international trip to be held around May 22. Every year, the Pope has made a one-day visit to a European capital: in September 2013, he visited Tirana in Albania, while in June 2014 he went to Sarajevo in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Some sources speculated that the Pope might go to Kosovo or to Macedonia, to show closeness to the migrants and refugees that go back and forth on the frontier there.
However, the Pope might also choose to go to a European capital not in the Balkans, a capital that faces increasing migration trends while also experiencing a strong secularization.
Pope Francis was supposed to visit Milan on May 6. Both the Vatican and the Archdiocese of Milan had confirmed the trip.
However, the Holy See press office on Dec. 10, 2015 said that the Pope had cancelled the visit to Milan, and postponed every other “pastoral visit to Italy” due to the commitments for the Jubilee of Mercy. However, the communiqué did not mention any possible cancellation of Pope Francis’ trips outside of Italy.
At the moment, Pope Francis is confirmed to make two international trips. He will go to Mexico Feb. 12-18, and he will go to Poland at the end of July to take part in the World Youth Day scheduled July 26-31.
Pope Francis arrives in St. Peter’s Square for the general audience, Dec. 9, 2015. (Daniel Ibanez/CNA)