Pope to visit Greece, Cyprus, Malta

Vatican City (AFP) –


Pope Francis announced plans to visit Greece, Cyprus and Malta and confirmed he hopes to attend the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow, in an interview broadcast Wednesday.

The 84-year-old has already scheduled a visit to Slovakia September 12-15 after a brief stop in Hungary to celebrate a mass in the capital Budapest.

Asked by Spain's Cope radio whether he may also travel to Spain to coincide with the Holy Year in the northwestern city of Santiago de Compostela, the pontiff said he could not rule it out.

"But my choice so far of travel to Europe is the small countries. First it was Albania and then all the countries that were small," he said.

"Now Slovakia is on the programme, then Cyprus, Greece and Malta. I wanted to take that option: first to the smaller countries...

"And if I go to Santiago, I go to Santiago but not to Spain, let's be clear," ruling out an official trip to the country.

The pope, who has been outspoken on the need to tackle climate change, also confirmed he hoped to attend the COP26 conference in Scotland in November -- and urged participants to aim high.

"It all depends on how I feel at the time. But in fact, my speech is already being prepared, and the plan is to be there," he said.

It is the biggest climate summit since the 2015 Paris negotiation, which Francis said "was the summum (pinnacle) in becoming globally aware".

"Then what happened? Fear set in," Francis said.

- 'No script' -

"And slowly, in the subsequent meetings, they went backwards. I hope that Glasgow will now raise its sights a bit and bring us more in line."

The official programme for his trip to Hungary includes a meeting with President Janos Ader and Prime Minister Viktor Orban on his arrival.

Asked what he would like to say to Orban, whose anti-migration views contrast with his own, Francis appeared to avoid the question.

"I don't know if I am going to meet him. I know that authorities will come to greet me...

"One of my ways is not to go around with a script: when I am in front of a person, I look him in the eyes and let things come out.

"It doesn't even occur to me to think about what I'm going to say if I'm with him, those potential future situations that don't help me."