Kazakhstan Bishop Says Pope Visit Now More Significant

ASTANA, Kazakhstan, Sep 20, 01 (CWNews.com) - The leader of Kazakhstan's Catholic Church said on Thursday that Pope John Paul's visit to the Central Asian country this week is even more significant in light of last week's terrorist attacks on the US.

"I think that after these tragic events in the United States, the visit has become even more important for the whole world," said Bishop Tomasz Peta. He said the trip was a recognition of the peace that has reigned in the former Soviet republic during its ten years of independence since the fall of the Soviet Union.

"There haven't been clashes here over the past 10 years between nations or religious confessions," Bishop Peta said. "The Russian Orthodox Church and the Catholics ... have brotherly relations, in contrast to other former Soviet republics."

The Pope is scheduled to arrive in Astana on Saturday and stay for several days before heading on to Armenia for a brief visit. Kazakhstan has announced unprecedented security measures to protect the Holy Father.

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who is eager to win greater acceptance in the West, invited the Pontiff on behalf of the country's Catholics, who make up just 2 to 3 percent of Kazakhstan's 16.8 million population. The vast majority of the people are Muslim.

"He (the Pope) is very concerned about the situation-- probably not in Kazakhstan, because in Kazakhstan it's calm and no one sees any particular threat," said Father Damian Wojciechowski, a Church spokesman. "It's mostly people who are coming from abroad who are alarmed ... so I think some special measures will be taken, but they shouldn't prevent pilgrims from coming."

Catholic World News Service - Daily News Briefs
20. september 2001

av Webmaster publisert 21.09.2001, sist endret 21.09.2001 - 11:05