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Vatican studying papal trip to South Korea in August, Philippines-Sri Lanka in future

Pope Francis waves to faithful from his pope-mobile as he arrives for his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

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Pope Francis waves to faithful from his pope-mobile as he arrives for his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

VATICAN CITY - Pope Francis may go to South Korea in August, 20 years after Pope John Paul II last visited the Korean peninsula.

The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said Wednesday that Francis has been invited to attend a meeting of young Asian Catholics in August and that a trip is "under study."

Asian Youth Day, the regional version of the church's global youth festival, is scheduled for Aug. 10-17 in Daejeon.

Lombardi said the Vatican was also considering another papal trip to Asia, but not this year, to the Philippines and Sri Lanka.

Francis told reporters last summer en route home from World Youth Day in Brazil that he wanted to go to Asia precisely because Pope Benedict XVI never managed to get to the continent during his eight years as pope, aside from a quick trip to Turkey in 2006. Francis specifically mentioned the invitations he had received from the Philippines and Sri Lanka.

The globe-trotting John Paul made several trips to Asia during his quarter-century papacy. He canonized 103 Korean martyrs during a May 1994 trip to South Korea that kicked off a 10-day odyssey, which included stops in Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Thailand.

Asked about other reports of possible papal travel, Lombardi said Francis had been invited to attend ceremonies in Sarajevo in June to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I, but that no decision had been made. He confirmed an invitation to visit Uganda, but said it didn't appear on the pope's agenda at this stage.

Francis so far has one foreign trip confirmed for 2014: a May 24-26 trip to Jordan, Israel and the West Bank.

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Follow Nicole Winfield at www.twitter.com/nwinfield

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