Kochi, Nov 24 : Pope Francis, Head of the Roman Catholic Church, is likely to visit India next year, a senior Catholic priest here said today. Archbishop-designate Joseph Kalathiparambil, who returned from Vatican today, said an indication in this regard was conveyed to him when he visited the Pope at his residence. “What I understood is that the Pope wishes to visit India next year. An indication in this regard was given to me when I visited him at his residence at Santa Marta in Vatican,” he said.

Kalathiparambil is set to take over as the Archbishop of Latin Archdiocese of Verapoly in Kerala on December 18. Earlier, there were reports that Pope Francis would “almost certainly” visit India but no dates were specified. Kalathiparambil said he requested the Pope to visit Kerala and Verapoly Archdiocese, and his response was positive. Pope John Paul II is the only Pope to have visited Kerala, where the Catholic community has a strong presence.

He had visited India for the first time for 10 days in 1986, and again in November 1999, his 89th Apostolic visit outside Italy, for the occasion of solemnly promulgating in the Post Synodal Apostolic Exhortation “Ecclesia in Asia”, in New Delhi. During his India visit in 1986, Pope John Paul II had visited the state to beatify Sister Alphonsa and Kuriakose Elias Chavara popularly known as Chavara Achen. Prior to appointment as the archbishop, Kalathiparambil was serving as the Secretary of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People after being called for the assignment by Pope Benedict XVI in February 2011. The 64-year-old bishop replaces Archbishop Francis Kallarakal, who has retired.