ROME - Pope Francis announced Monday he will make his first visit to Africa later this year with stops in Uganda and the restive Central African Republic, AFP reports.
"I think it will be towards the end of the year because of the weather," the pontiff said aboard the papal plane as he headed back to Rome after a weeklong visit in Asia, where he drew record crowds.
"The trip has been a bit delayed due to Ebola. It's a great responsibility," he added.
The Argentinian pope, the first pontiff from Latin America, also confirmed plans to travel to Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay in July.
The Associated Press AP also earlier announced the news, saying it was revealed to their journalist Nicole Winfield aboard the Papal Plane from his visit to Philipines.
The dates of the 2015 trips, are however still in their planning stages and are not confirmed by the Vatican. They would come on top of his planned tvisit to the United States in September, AP has reported.
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni visited the Vatican late last year, and the issue of a possible visit to the land of the Ugandan Martyrs was said to have been discussed.
The pope is just from a dramatic week-long Asian tour. (AFP/Vatican Press Office)
According to AP, Pope Francis plans to canonize the 17th-century missionary Junipero Serra during the Washington leg of the U.S. trip, likely at the National Shrine.
AP quoted the Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, as saying that the travel plans were "provisional and that nothing has been decided."
"Francis said he would have loved to have entered the U.S. via the Mexican border, saying it would have been a beautiful thing, as a sign of brotherhood and of help to the immigrants.'"
"But you know that going to Mexico without going to visit the Madonna (of Guadalupe) would be a drama. A war could break out!" he said, laughing. He said a Mexico visit would come in the future.
AP further reported that "Speaking as his plane passed through Chinese airspace, Francis again expressed his openness to going to China, and denied recent speculation that he had turned down a requested audience with the Dalai Lama out of fears of angering Beijing."
"Francis said the audience was rejected as a matter of Vatican protocol. "
"China severed relations with the Holy See in 1951 after the communists took over. Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI and now Francis have sought to mend ties," reported AP.
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Pope Francis to visit Uganda this year