By Isabella Piro
The Pope’s next Apostolic Journey will see him visiting two Asian countries: the Kingdom of Thailand, from 20 to 23 November, and then Japan from 23 to 26 November, where he will visit Tokyo, Nagasaki and Hiroshima. A detailed program of the visit will be announced later.
The motto of the first stage of the Apostolic Journey is "Disciples of Christ, Missionary Disciples", and is a reference to an important anniversary. 2019 marks the 350th anniversary of the establishment of the Apostolic Vicariate of Siam, erected in 1669.
This event is represented in the logo prepared for the visit. Beneath a smiling Pope Francis is a boat that symbolizes evangelization. Its three sails recall the Trinity. The stylized representation of Our Lady’s hand supports the vessel. Finally, a golden cross invites the whole Thai Catholic Church to be a witness to the Good News.
The Asian Continent
In January this year, Pope Francis sent a message to the meeting of Presidents of the Doctrinal Commissions of the Bishops' Conferences of Asia, and a delegation of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in Bangkok. "You are gathered in Asia, a vast and multiform continent, marked by religious, linguistic and cultural diversity”, wrote the Pope, “in order to reaffirm our common responsibility for the unity and integrity of the Catholic faith, as well as to explore new means and methods of witnessing to the Gospel in the midst of the challenges of our contemporary world".
The theme of the Apostolic Journey to Japan focuses on the protection of life and Creation, and is quoted from a phase in “A prayer for our earth” at the end of the Pope’s Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’, on caring for our common home. In that document, the Pope encourages us to respect both the dignity of each person, but also the environment.
This is particularly poignant in a country like Japan where the nuclear threat, as we read in the description of the motto, "remains a persistent problem”. Three flames of three different colors characterize the logo: a red flame recalling the martyrs, the foundation of the Church in Japan, a blue flame representing the Blessed Virgin Mary who embraces all humanity as her children, and a green flame symbolizing both the nature of Japan, and the mission to proclaim the Gospel of hope. A red circle, like a sun, embraces all life, and symbolizes love.