VATICAN CITY, AUG. 28, 2001 (Zenit.org).- On the heels of his historic trip to Ukraine, John Paul II is anticipating his next pilgrimage, to Kazakhstan and Armenia.
This Sept. 22-27 trip will have even greater repercussions in Russia, since the Pope will speak in Russian when he visits Kazakhstan, a former Soviet republic.
On this trip, the Orthodox Church will likely be more receptive to the Holy Father than was Alexy II, patriarch of Moscow, who opposed the Ukraine trip in June.
Astana, the new capital of Kazakhstan, will welcome the Holy Father on his 95th international trip. The showcase city is barely 3 years old, a central Asian Brasilia.
The Pope is scheduled to arrive at Astana´s international airport at 7:30 p.m. local time Saturday, Sept. 22. He will be received by President Nursultan A. Nazarbaev, a former chairman of the Kazakh Supreme Soviet.
In Astana, John Paul II will visit the monument to the victims of the Communist era. Kazakhstan was used by Moscow as a station for deportation.
The next day the Holy Father will celebrate Mass and pray the Angelus in the Square of the Motherland. In this country of 15 million inhabitants, 47% of the population is Muslim, 44% Orthodox and 2% Protestant. Catholics, who suffered harsh repression under the Soviets, number slightly over 180,000.
The papal Mass may also attract Orthodox, who generally have had good relations with Catholics in Kazakhstan.
The grand mufti, leader of the Kazakh Muslims, is interested in the visit and has helped advise the commission that is organizing the visit.
On Sunday afternoon the Pontiff will pay a courtesy call on President Nazarbaev, who is largely responsible for this trip. During a 1998 visit to the Vatican, Nazarbaev signed an agreement with the Holy See, giving juridical recognition to the Catholic Church in his country. He also invited the Pope to visit Kazakhstan.
On Sunday, the Pope will also meet with Kazakh youth in the auditorium of Eurasia University.
John Paul II will celebrate Mass on Monday, Sept. 24, in the Cathedral of the Virgin of Perpetual Help in Astana, and be received in the Palace of Congresses at 6 p.m. by leaders in the field of culture, art and science.
On Tuesday morning, Sept. 25, the Pope will travel to Erevan in Armenia, where he will confirm the rapprochement, in recent years, between the Catholic Church and Armenian Apostolic Church.