NEW DELHI – The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, a permanent association of Catholic bishops in India, said it was disappointed that Pope Francis will not be visiting India as part of his South Asia trip, which he began Monday in Myanmar.
“We were disappointed when we heard that the Pope is visiting a smaller country but not coming here, but hope he will visit India soon,” secretary general of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, told EFE.
Mascarenhas added that their request to the Indian government to invite the Pope to the country was still under consideration.
“A Pope’s visit has to be planned about six or seven months in advance because he is not only a political leader but also a pastoral leader,” said the bishop.
Mascarenhas said Pope Francis had recently said he would like to visit India and added that hosting the pontiff would be an honor for the 20 million Catholics in the country.
During his visit to Myanmar and Bangladesh, which will conclude on Dec. 2, the Pope will hold inter-religious meetings amid an unresolved humanitarian crisis that has led to hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas, a Muslim ethnic minority community, to flee to neighboring Bangladesh.
Pope Francis had not stopped over in India even during an earlier trip to the region in 2015, when he visited Sri Lanka, a Buddhist majority country.
John Paul II was the last Pope to visit India in 1999.