VATICAN CITY — A cardinal from Madagascar says Pope Francis is expected to visit the African island nation next year, in what is shaping up to be a year of global travel for the pontiff.

Cardinal Desire Tsarahazana, the archbishop of Toamasina, said Tuesday that Madagascar bishops extended the invitation and "he will come to visit us in 2019." The Vatican would not confirm a trip but said the possibility was being studied.

The pope is expected at World Youth Day in Panama in January and also has said he hopes to visit Japan next year.

A Madagascar trip could be dovetailed with an invitation to visit Uganda in late July to mark the 50th anniversary of the African bishops umbrella group. It would mark Francis' second visit to Uganda.