No Dates Set for Possible Papal Trip to Mongolia

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VATICAN CITY, JULY 8, 2003 (Zenit.org).- The Vatican says no dates have yet been set for John Paul II's possible trip to Mongolia.



"I can confirm that the Holy Father has been invited by the government of Mongolia and by the apostolic prefect of Ulan Bator, to make a pastoral visit to that country," Vatican spokesman Joaquín Navarro-Valls said in a note today.

"The invitation is much appreciated, but I must specify that a decision has not yet been made on the date of that trip," he said. "Therefore, the news of a visit to the Mongolian capital this coming month of August is not confirmed."

Last February, Monsignor Renato Boccardo, head of Vatican protocol with special assignments, traveled to Mongolia to study the possible organization of the visit.

Situated between Russia and China, Mongolia has some 2.6 million inhabitants, 96% of whom are Buddhists. It has fewer than 200 Catholics.

It was hoped that, as part of the trip, the Pope stop in Kazan, capital of the Russian republic of Tatarstan, to return the icon of the Virgin of Kazan. The icon has been kept in the Vatican for years. For now, the Russian Orthodox Church opposes such a visit.

Vatican sources simply confirmed to ZENIT that the "Pope wants to go to Mongolia."