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Papal visit apparently back on

Following is from an American Catholic news source.  The preparations for
the visit were 'suspended' by the Vatican eralier this month but now seen
back on.

Fingers crossed.

Number: 11333    Date: 18-Oct-99    Type: B    Code:

Iraq, Vatican Begin Papal Trip Preparations

BAGHDAD ( - The papal nuncio to Iraq met with the country's
foreign minister on
Saturday to discuss the upcoming papal trip in December, according to
reports from the Vatican's
embassy in Baghdad on Sunday.

Archbishop Giuseppe Lazzarotto and Foreign Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf
met to discuss
the visit despite recent concerns regarding various aspects of the visit by
Pope John Paul II to the
birthplace of the biblical patriarch Abraham at Ur. Iraqi dissidents and
the US and British
governments have expressed concern that the repressive regime of the
President Saddam Hussein
would use the visit for propaganda purposes.

Elements of the Iraqi government have also publicly demanded that the Holy
Father make political
statements in opposition to UN economic sanctions during the trip which has
been characterized by
the Vatican as a spiritual pilgrimage. The Pope has often spoken out
against the effects of the
embargo -- imposed for Baghdad's 1990 invasion of Kuwait -- on the weakest
sectors of Iraqi

Earlier this month, Vatican sources had said the visit might not take place
in early December because
there were serious stumbling blocks.

According to media reports, Sahaf told Archbishop Lazzarotto that Iraq
would happily receive the
usual advance planning team from the Vatican and discuss details of the
papal trip, they said, but
added that no schedule had been set up so far.

Chris Cole
Southwark Justice and Peace Office
Cathedral Clergy House
Westminster Bridge Road
London SE1 7HY

0171 928 9742

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