Kazakhstan Ready for Pope's Visit

VATICAN, Sep 21, 01 (CWNews.com) - Pope John Paul II will leave Rome on Saturday morning for the 95th foreign voyage of his pontificate, which will take him to Kazakhstan and Armenia.

The Holy Father will arrive in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan, at 7:30 PM, after a 6-hour flight. He will remain in Kazakhstan until Tuesday morning, September 25, when he will fly to Armenia. From there he will return to Rome on Thursday, September 27.

[For a full preview of the papal visit to Kazakhstan, see today's CWN Feature story. A preview of the Armenian leg of this trip will appear as a CWN Feature early next week.]

Kazakhstan, a former Soviet republic which gained independence in 1991, is a religiously diverse country. Muslims make up a bit more than 50 percent of the population, with Orthodox Christians accounting for another 40 percent. There are only 180,000 Catholics-- about 1.2 percent of the population.

Reporting from Astana, the head of the Fides news agency writes that the government of Kazakhstan is working to ensure a successful visit. Father Bernardo Cervellera writes that rumors of government indifference toward the Pope's arrival have been entirely mistaken. On the contrary, he reports, the substantial police presence has been discreet and accommodating, traffic is moving smoothly, and enormous camps have been set up to provide for the anticipated flood of pilgrims.

With weather expected to be clement this weekend, organizers of the papal visit expect crowds of up to 100,000 for the Pope's public appearances. At least 40,000 official passes had already been distributed.

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

av Webmaster publisert 21.09.2001, sist endret 21.09.2001 - 22:37