Pope Francis asperses holy water as he celebrates Easter mass in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican on March 31, 2024. Image Credit: AP

JAKARTA: Pope Francis will visit Indonesia in September, the country’s religious affairs minister has said, as concerns mounted over the 87-year-old pontiff’s health.

Outgoing President Joko Widodo invited the pope to visit Indonesia, which has the world’s largest Muslim population, in June 2022 as part of an effort to promote religious tolerance.

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“After waiting for two years, Pope Francis finally will come to Indonesia. I believe this will be a special gift for the Catholics,” religious affairs minister Yaqut Cholil Qoumas said at an event in Central Java on Saturday.

“Based on the letter sent by the Vatican received by the Indonesian government, Pope Francis will be present in Indonesia on September 3rd, 2024,” Qoumas said, according to the ministry’s website.

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“This will be an honour for Indonesia.”

According to the Pew Research Centre, Indonesia is home to 242 million Muslims and around 29 million Christians - 8.5 million of whom are Catholics.

Pope Francis is also expected to visit Papua New Guinea in August, the country’s foreign minister Justin Tkatchenko said in January.

And a Vatican source said the Pope planned to visit East Timor the same month.

Since his election by cardinals in 2013, Pope Francis has made 44 trips abroad.

The Vatican has said he will visit Belgium later this year and the pope has mentioned a possible visit to his native Argentina.

Questions about his health were revived after his last-minute cancellation at a major Good Friday procession.

In a brief statement Friday, the Vatican said that “to preserve his health ahead of tomorrow’s vigil and the Easter Sunday mass, Pope Francis will this evening follow the Way of the Cross at the Colosseum from the Santa Marta Residence,” where he lives.