DAILY CATHOLIC    WEDNESDAY     November 17, 1999     vol. 10, no. 218

NEWS & VIEWS
from a CATHOLIC perspective

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FRESH START TO PREPARATIONS FOR PAPAL TRIP TO IRAQ

Pilgrimage Could Take Place from January 16-20

        BAGHDAD, NOV 15 (ZENIT).- Patriarch Raphael Bidawid, of the Chaldean Catholic Church in Iraq, said yesterday that John Paul II's visit to Iraq could take place from January 16-20 of the year 2000.

        His Beatitude Bidawid also revealed that the Vatican will send a delegation to Iraq next weekend to discuss details of the trip.

        At the end of June, John Paul II wrote a letter to all Catholics, expressing his intention to visit the major places of Revelation, both of the Old as well as the New Testaments. It is in this context that the papal trip is being organized. The Pontiff hopes to visit Ur of the Chaldeans, birthplace of Abraham, the Father in faith of all believers of the three monotheist religions. In the letter, the Pope states explicitly that the pilgrimage is of a strictly spiritual nature, and that it would distress him to think that political motives were attributed to it.

        The visit has been subject to delay. At first, it was to take place in December, but this plan was abandoned because of a number of impediments originating with the Iraqi regime. Then in October, a group of Iraqi intellectuals published an open letter questioning the wisdom of a possible visit by the head of the Catholic Church to the land of Abraham. In addition, at that time, the Vatican was yet to receive an official invitation from Saddam Hussein's regime -- an indispensable requirement for all papal trips.

        Next weekend's Vatican delegation will be headed by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano. The delegates will arrive on Sunday and stay in Iraq for three or four days. Two of the delegates will visit Ur, which at present is under restoration, by order of President Saddam Hussein. ZE99111502


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November 17, 1999       volume 10, no. 218
NEWS & VIEWS

DAILY CATHOLIC

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