BANGKOK -- The Latest on Pope Francis' visit to Thailand and Japan in November (all times local):
Nagasaki Archbishop Joseph Mitsuaki Takami, who heads the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Japan, has welcomed Pope Francis' upcoming visit, saying he and others in the Japanese church have been asking him to come for years.
He acknowledged Friday that Japan does not have as many Christians as some other nations.
But he said Francis has special feelings for Japan, referring to how last year the pope had the Vatican print thousands of cards showing a Nagasaki nuclear bombing child survivor carrying his dead brother on his back. The card had the words "The fruit of war" printed on it.
"I think the pope was laying the groundwork for this visit," the archbishop said in a statement.
"We will work hard to make the pope's visit to Japan a meaningful one."
Pope Francis will meet with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Emperor Naruhito when he visits Japan in November.
Government spokesman Yoshihide Suga said Pope Francis will visit Tokyo, Hiroshima and Nagasaki during his Nov. 23-26 visit. He said Abe invited Francis to visit Japan when he went to the Vatican in 2014.
Suga said, "We welcome the visit as a way to gain understanding of the international community about atomic bombing."
Japan has not had such a visit since St. John Paul II was the first pope to visit Japan, in 1981. Japan, where the main religions are Buddhism and Shintoism, has about 441,000 Catholics, many in Nagasaki.
Nagasaki, in southwestern Japan, is rich in the legacy of Christian missionaries dating back to the samurai era, including 26 martyrs killed in 1597.
Francis has repeatedly called for a world without nuclear weapons.
Representatives of the Roman Catholic Church in Thailand have announced the upcoming visit of Pope Francis in late November
The Vatican's diplomatic representative in Thailand, Archbishop Paul Tschang In-Nam, announced Friday at a press conference that Francis will visit on Nov. 20-23.
The announcement, which was confirmed by the Vatican, said he will also visit Japan.
There has not been a papal visit to Thailand since the late Pope John Paul II came in 1984.