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Pope Francis hoping to visit Hiroshima, Nagasaki around end of 2019 via Kyodo News

ROME– Pope Francis has expressed his desire to visit Japan, including the atomic-bombed cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, around the end of next year, the Japanese cardinal said Monday.

If the plan is realized, he will become the first pope to travel to Japan since John Paul II visited the two cities in 1981.

Japan’s Cardinal Manyo Maeda, who met with Pope Francis at the Vatican earlier in the day, said the pope during his trip is expected to offer prayers for the victims of the U.S. atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 in World War II.

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The mayors of Hiroshima in western Japan and Nagasaki in southwestern Japan as well as the governor of Hiroshima Prefecture also asked for the pope to visit when they attended his public weekly audiences.

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Although the population of Catholics in Japan is small at around 400,000, or 0.3 percent of the national population, the country has a history with the Catholic Church stretching over centuries since Jesuit Francis Xavier landed in southwestern Japan in 1549.

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