DAILY CATHOLIC    TUESDAY     November 9, 1999     vol. 10, no. 212

from a CATHOLIC perspective

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        VATICAN (CWNews.com) -- Pope John Paul II arrived in the former Soviet republic of Georgia on November 8, in the last stop of a tour which began with three days in India.

        "I am happy to be arriving in Georgia on a significant day," the Pope said, alluding to the 10th anniversary of the day when the Berlin Wall fell. He was greeted at the airport in Tbilisi, the nation's capital, by President Edouard Schevardnadze and Catholicos Ilia II, the Orthodox patriarch of Georgia.

        In his remarks at the airport, the Pope mentioned that Schevardnadnze had played an important role in the final days of Communism, when he served as foreign minister of the Soviet government under Mikhail Gorbachev. The final results of the fall of the Communist empire, the Pontiff observed, included the revival of Georgia as an independent country.

        ZENIT News Agency also reports that John Paul II's visit to Georgia is full of meaning, not least because of the extraordinary variety of cultures, religions and ethnic groups he will encounter in this small land. After decades of Soviet domination, at present 65% of Georgians profess Orthodoxy, and 11% Islam.

        The country has a surface of 69,700 square kilometers. In a population of 5,460 million, with a density of 78.1 inhabitants per square kilometer, the urban population equals 59%. The fertility rate is 2.10% and life expectancy 72.8 years.

        A number of languages are spoken in Georgia, but the most important are Georgian, Russian, Azerbaijan, Hebrew, and Kurdish. Ethnic groups include Georgians (about 70%), Armenians, Russians, Azerbaijanis, Greeks, Hebrews, Kurds, etc. The principal religion is Christian Orthodoxy, but there are Muslim and Catholic minorities.

        The capital of Georgia is Tiflis, and its government is a presidential republic.

        In so far as the economy is concerned, the GNP totals $2,358 million. Per capita GNP equals $1,470. The foreign debt amounts to $1,189 million, and the annual rate of growth is 10.5%. Georgia's main suppliers are: the European Union, the Community of Independent States, and the United States. Its clients include Russia, Armenia and the European Union.

        The Catholic Church in Georgia According to tradition, the Apostle Andrew brought Christianity to Georgia. Catholics number between 50,000-100,000 faithful. Catholics of the Latin Rite from Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia are under the Caucasus apostolic administration, established on December 30, 1993. Fr. Giuseppe Pasotto, CSS, is the Apostolic Administrator. The missionaries in Georgia include: 17 priests, 29 religious and 11 seminarians. ZE99110502

Articles provided through Catholic World News and Church News at Noticias Eclesiales and International Dossiers, Daily Dispatches and Features at ZENIT International News Agency. CWN, NE and ZENIT are not affiliated with the Daily CATHOLIC but provide this service via e-mail to the Daily CATHOLIC Monday through Friday.

November 9, 1999       volume 10, no. 212


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