Pope Francis will visit Belgium and Luxembourg from September 26 to 29, the Vatican announced on Monday.

The pontiff will commence his visit in Luxembourg on Thursday, September 26, before traveling to Brussels, Leuven, Louvain-la-Neuve, and Ghent, according to the Vatican press release.

The visit coincides with the 600th anniversary celebrations of the University of Leuven, now known as KU Leuven and UCLouvain, which will celebrate its jubilee in 2025. It was previously known that the Pope would be visiting Belgium in the latter half of September as part of these celebrations.

Pope Francis is also expected to visit the Koekelberg Basilica in Brussels and preside over a Mass in the capital on September 29, though the specific location has yet to be confirmed.

Mixed Reactions to the Visit

Archbishop Luc Terlinden expressed surprise and delight at the announcement: “The Pope visits very few European countries, let alone in Western Europe. We didn’t really expect it,” he said. “At the same time, I think Pope Francis has long wanted to come to Belgium very much. One reason is that he knew a number of Belgians in his younger years in Argentina. I think first and foremost his heart spoke.”

The full itinerary for the visit is still being finalized and will be available on the website www.popevisit.be.

Meeting with Intellectual and Scientific Communities

Archbishop Terlinden emphasized the significance of the visit: “Let us not forget that the visit is part of the celebration of the 600th anniversary of our two Leuven universities,” he said. “So it is a very special occasion, since the Pope is also coming to meet the intellectual and scientific world of our country and, by extension, Belgian society and its various sections.”

Health Concerns

At 87 years old, Pope Francis has faced health challenges, including respiratory problems over the winter, which led him to withdraw unexpectedly from a Good Friday procession in March to preserve his health. He arrived at the Palm Sunday Mass in a wheelchair and has had aides read speeches on his behalf recently.

The last Papal visit to Belgium was in 1995 when John Paul II visited for the beatification of Father Damien. That visit was limited to Brussels.

Pope Francis’s visit to Belgium in 2024 aims to foster dialogue on various social issues, as noted by KU Leuven's rector, and will be an important event for the country's intellectual and scientific communities. Photo by Long Thiên, Wikimedia commons.