Cardinal Etchegaray on Why the Pope Travels So Much

To Tell the World to Open Up to Christ, He Says

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VATICAN CITY, MAY 9, 2003 ( To the question, "Why has a Pope traveled so much outside of Italy?" Cardinal Roger Etchegaray has a simple answer.

"To tell the world not to be afraid, to open wide the doors to Christ," he says.

For the record, John Paul II has spent 572 days, or a year and seven months, outside Italy.

"The papal visits are not just intended to give courage ... to recompense communities of believers, but to dialogue with all the civilizations and cultures of the planet," said Cardinal Etchegaray, president emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.

The cardinal noted: "The Successor of Peter also feels he is an heir to St. Paul," as he himself said in Africa in May 1980.

John Paul II had said then: "Some in Europe think that the Pope should not travel, that he should stay in Rome as he has always done.

"I am convinced that the time has come in which the Bishops of Rome, that is, the Popes, must not just consider themselves as the Successors of Peter but also heirs of St. Paul who, as we know, never stopped: He was always traveling."

Cardinal Etchegaray said, "The Pope is a pilgrim on the roads of the world; his pastoral endeavor has no limits."

The Basque-French cardinal made these statements during a congress, organized by the Lateran University, for the 25th anniversary of John Paul II's pontificate. The congress ends Saturday.

He referred to the trips the Pope has not been able to make so far, in particular, to Moscow and Beijing.

"The experience of the Socialist countries of Eastern Europe have taught him that it is important to know how to wait, for the propitious time, God's time, but not passively."

John Paul II has made 99 international trips, and 142 in Italy. Until his trip to Spain last weekend, he had traveled 1,237,584 kilometers (767,302 miles) in Italy and the world. He has visited 129 nations.