Papal Mass Set for Stadium in Damascus

Same Day, May 6, Pope Plans to Visit Mosque

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DAMASCUS, Syria, MAR. 30, 2001 ( John Paul II will celebrate Mass in Abasidas Stadium here Sunday, May 6, during his historic visit to Syria.

The Holy Father will arrive at Damascus International Airport on May 5, where he will receive “an official and popular welcome,” the Greek-Catholic patriarchate reported Thursday. The Pope will be traveling from Athens, Greece, continuing his pilgrimage in St. Paul´s footsteps.

Syrian President Bashar Assad will greet the Bishop of Rome at the airport, and then have a personal meeting with the Pontiff.

John Paul II will attend an ecumenical meeting in the Greek-Orthodox patriarchate, which is scheduled for the late afternoon, according to the program published by the Greek-Catholic Patriarchal Vicar Isidore Battika, and Archbishop Diego Causero, the apostolic nuncio in Damascus.

The next morning, Sunday, a solemn Mass will take place in the 45,000-capacity stadium. Following a meeting with Syrian priests and religious, in the afternoon the Holy Father will visit the Umayyad mosque. Of Syria´s 16.3 million inhabitants, 90% are Muslim.

On May 7, the Pope will visit Kuneitra, about 70 kilometers (43 miles) south of Damascus, a part of Golan which was not occupied by Israel, and plant an olive tree. Before this, the Pope will visit St. Paul´s chapel, in the old zone of Damascus.

On Monday afternoon, after returning from Kuneitra, the Holy Father will meet with youth in the Greek-Catholic patriarchate. The next morning, May 8, he heads for Malta.

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