On Eve of Turning 81, John Paul II Keeps Up the Pace

Reportedly Eyes Trip to Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan

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VATICAN CITY, MAY 17, 2001 (Zenit.org).- On the eve of his 81st birthday, John Paul II shows no signs of slowing down.

In addition to his Ukraine trip next month, and a possible Armenia visit in the autumn, he is also looking to go to Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, two former Soviet satellites with large Muslim populations, the Roman newspaper Il Messaggero reported today. The Pope is already planning a trip to Bulgaria.

Then there is next week´s consistory of cardinals, and October´s world synod of bishops. The Pope´s birthday celebration Friday will be private. So when will the Holy Father take a breather?

«Like other collaborators,» Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls told reporters, «I have tried, without success, to make him rest. Last year, during his short holidays in the mountains, I reminded him of the collective bargain guaranteeing 30 days of vacations to all workers in Italy.»

«After reflecting for a few moments, he replied: ´But I am not Italian, I am a Vatican citizen,´» Navarro-Valls said.

«The Pope is never conscious of weekends,» the spokesman added. «He works on Saturdays and on Sundays; he often visits parishes in Rome. He has an astounding work pace.»

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