More Muslims Than Christians to Attend Papal Mass

John Paul II a Popular Figure in Kazakhstan

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ROME, SEPT. 6, 2001 (ZENIT.orgFides).- More Muslims than Christians will attend the big public Mass that John Paul II will celebrate when he visits Kazakhstan this month.

Father Edoardo Canetta, a member of the papal-visit organizing committee and an Italian missionary who has been in Kazakhstan for the past seven years, announced the news during a press conference on the Sept. 22-25 trip.

On Tuesday, tickets started to be distributed in Kazakhstan for the Mass and other papal events, the priest said. The organizers marveled at the response: 90% of those requesting tickets are Kazakhs, a traditionally Muslim ethnic group.

“There is enormous expectation for the Pope´s arrival, not only among Catholics, but also among Orthodox and Muslims,” Father Canetta told the Vatican agency Fides.

The grand mufti has called on Muslim faithful to prepare to receive the Great Guest. Several Muslim religious leaders have invited Muslims to attend the Mass, “a sacred action, which will do us good also,” they said.

Only 300,000 of the republic´s 15 million people are Catholic. In a national competition held two years ago, John Paul II was named the most popular figure of the 20th century.

Unlike their counterparts in Ukraine, the Orthodox in Kazakhstan also look forward to the Pope´s visit. Catholics enjoy good relations with Orthodox in Kazakhstan. In fact, several parish buildings are shared.

Today, Monsignor Tomasz Peta, apostolic administrator in Astana, met with Orthodox representatives to cooperate in organizing the visit. He is also scheduled to meet with the new Lutheran bishop.

To date, 500 journalists are accredited to report on the visit. The most numerous are Kazakhs, followed by reporters from Ukraine, Poland and Russia.

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