Work for Papal Mass Detours Chinese Sympathy

ASTANA, Kazakhstan, SEPT. 21, 2001 ( Preparations for the outdoor papal Mass here detoured a visiting Chinese leader, who ended up paying homage to Kazakhstan´s victims of communism.

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As customary, visiting Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji was to lay a floral wreath at the Monument to the Motherland, a memorial to World War II dead in this capital city.

But he couldn´t reach the monument, because of the hordes of technicians preparing the site for this Sunday´s papal Mass.

Instead, the Chinese leader had to deposit the flowers at another monument — one that commemorates the victims of Communism and lists all the names of the Soviet concentration camps.

It is at this monument that the Pope will be welcomed by President Nursultan Abishevich Nazarbajev, former leader of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in Kazakhstan.

Details of the story were recounted by Father Bernardo Cervellera, director of the Vatican agency Fides, who is helping to prepare for John Paul II´s visit.

Local journalists estimate that a record 100,000 people will attend the papal Mass, most of them Muslims.

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