Pope Francis to visit Belgium in 2024 for 600th birthday of Leuven university

Pope Francis has announced his intention to visit Belgium in 2024, the official Vatican News website reported on Wednesday morning. The reason for his visit is the 600th anniversary of the University of Leuven, now KU Leuven and UCLouvain.

Both the Flemish government and the Belgian royal family have invited Pope Francis to Belgium. Flemish minister president Jan Jambon attended a public audience in March 2022, while King Philippe and Queen Mathilde had a private audience last September.

The university was founded on 9 December 1425 with a decree signed by Pope Martin V. ​ After protests over language in the 1960s, it was split into the Dutch-speaking KU Leuven and the French-speaking UCLouvain. The universities will celebrate the 600th birthday during the 2024-2025 academic year with exhibitions, science, research, heritage, lectures and other events.

Date to be set

According to the Belgian Bishops' Conference, no date has been set for the visit as the universities, the Belgian authorities and the Vatican are still working out the programme. It will probably be a one- or two-day visit, said spokesperson Geert De Kerpel, and September is the most likely choice.

It would be the first time in more than 25 years that a Pope has visited Belgium. John Paul II travelled to Brussels in 1995 for the beatification of Father Damien.

The Pope's health could still disrupt his plans. Pope Francis, who turns 87 on 17 December, had to cancel a trip to the COP28 summit in Dubai because of a flu-like illness. He also underwent abdominal surgery this summer and suffers from knee and hip pain, forcing him to use a wheelchair during his visits.


#FlandersNewsService | © PHOTO ANDREAS SOLARO / AFP

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