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Religion

Frail Pope Faces Busy Autumn

September 06, 2003|From Religion News Service

VATICAN CITY — After a restful summer, an increasingly frail Pope John Paul II is preparing for a busy autumn, starting with a trip to Slovakia next week and culminating in October with celebrations of the 25th anniversary of his papacy and the beatification of Mother Teresa.

John Paul will travel to Bratislava on Thursday for a four-day visit to the predominantly Catholic Slovak Republic. It will be his third trip there since the collapse of Communism and his 102nd outside Italy since he was elected pope.

He will end the visit Sept. 14 by beatifying a bishop and a nun martyred by Communist authorities.

The trip will be a severe test of the pope's stamina in advance of the October celebrations, at which he will preside over Masses to be attended by the entire College of Cardinals and hundreds of thousands of pilgrims. He will mark the 25th anniversary of his election Oct. 16 and declare Mother Teresa of Calcutta blessed, the step before sainthood, Oct. 19.

Despite two months of almost complete rest at his country residence at Castelgandolfo, the ailing, 83-year-old John Paul has looked markedly weak and tired when he appeared in the courtyard of the 17th century villa for his general audiences. The Vatican abandoned its plans for him to travel to Mongolia in late August to install the Rev. Wenceslaw Padilla as the first bishop of the predominantly Buddhist country.

The trip fell through after Russian Orthodox officials frowned on the Vatican's plan for the pope to stop in the Russian city of Kazan en route to Mongolia. Vatican officials apparently decided that without the first papal visit to Russia, it would be unwise to tax the pope's strength with a long flight.

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