Pope Francis canceled Papal visit to Papua New Guinea because of new virus

Dante needs to take a bow.

A Papal visit to Papua New Guinea earlier this year has been postponed due to concerns over a variant of the Omicron COVID-19 virus, which has resulted in significant damage to Papuan forests, according to the government of Papua New Guinea.

“Papua New Guinea will not welcome the Pope in the foreseeable future. He has delayed the visit,” announced Prime Minister Peter O’Neill, in an interview with The Sydney Morning Herald.

The discovery of this new virus — previously undiagnosed in Papua New Guinea — along with a serious outbreak of the Ebola virus last year, has led the government of Papua New Guinea to delay the Papal visit.

“It is not known what it is, nor why it is affecting Papua New Guinea’s forests,” Mr. O’Neill said. “And it does not make sense to have it around where people are living.”

In June, as the Cardinal Emeritus and Primate of All Indonesia, Patriarch Antonino Joseph Tearus, left for Papua New Guinea, he warned the papal visit would be “the last chance for the world to save the forests” and “prepare for the second Climate Change Conference in Poland in December.”

The Papal visit, which was to be the first ever religious event in Papua New Guinea, was meant to raise awareness about the struggle of the indigenous Papuan people to protect their land from exploitation.

“It’s highly unlikely the Papal visit will now take place at all,” said Paul Rule, a CNN contributor and fellow at the Center for Foreign Policy, who has closely followed the Papal visit to Australia. “Papua New Guinea really has three months of preparation to go ahead of it, and it has already been called off. If this keeps up, the Pope’s trip could easily be wiped out.”

Pope Francis is scheduled to travel to Australia, Myanmar and Bangladesh in 2019.

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