ROME/TOKYO – Pope Francis will visit Japan from Nov. 23 to 26, the Vatican said Friday, becoming the first pontiff in nearly four decades to travel to the country.
The pope is scheduled to visit the atomic-bombed cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, along with Tokyo. He will also meet with Emperor Naruhito and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the Japanese government said.
The last pope to visit Japan, John Paul II, also went to Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1981.
Pope Francis, elected as the Roman Catholic pontiff in 2013, has called for the abolition of nuclear weapons.
The mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, along with the governor of Hiroshima Prefecture, had expressed their hope that the pope would visit and Abe asked him to come to Japan in talks at the Vatican in 2014.
The pope had said in January that he would travel to the country in November, but the dates weren’t announced until Friday.
Expectations had been growing that the pope would also travel to the Tohoku region, where reconstruction continues more than eight years after the March 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster.
The visit to Japan will follow his trip to Thailand from Nov. 20 to 23.