Armenia-Kazakhstan Trip Is Still On

U.S. Tragedy Won´t Block Papal Visits

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VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 16, 2001 ( A week before undertaking his next international trip, John Paul II confirmed that he will visit Armenia and Kazakhstan, despite the terrorist attacks against the United States.

On Saturday, when he received Edward Nalbandian, the new Armenian ambassador to the Vatican, the Pontiff said: «I am joyfully preparing to visit your country within a few days to meet with the civil authorities and the Armenian people, and to associate myself with the celebrations of the 17th centenary of Christianity in Armenia.»

Kazakhstan is the first stage of the trip. The Holy Father will arrive there Sept. 22. The former Soviet Union Republic has a Muslim majority.

Experts in terrorism, quoted today in the Italian newspaper Il Corriere della Sera, explained that Kazakhstan is not on the «route» of Muslim terrorist groups.

On Sept. 25, the Pontiff will travel to Armenia, where the majority of the population is faithful to the Armenian Apostolic Church, which separated from Rome after the Council of Chalcedon in 451.

The Holy Father told the Armenian diplomat that he hopes his trip to Armenia will enable him «to consolidate the way of dialogue and the path toward unity begun with the Armenian Apostolic Church.»

This path reached an important milestone in 1996 when, in a joint declaration, Karekin I, the previous Armenian apostolic patriarch, and John Paul II overcame the theological question over the nature of Christ, which caused the fifth-century separation between the two Churches.

During the reception for the Armenian ambassador, John Paul II praised the country´s fidelity to the faith. Thanks to Christianity, this country, of some 3.4 million inhabitants, has been able to preserve its Armenian identity, despite the numerous occupations and annexations it has endured throughout history, the Pope explained.

Through the ambassador, the Holy Father sent greetings to the Armenian Catholic community, whose pastor is Patriarch Nerses Bedros XIX.

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