POPE JOHN PAUL II EXPECTED TO VISIT THE PACIFIC THIS YEAR

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NOUMÉA, New Caledonia (January 16, 2001 - Oceania Flash/SPC)---Pope John Paul II is expected to visit the Pacific region, including New Caledonia, Australia and New Zealand this year, the daily newspaper Les Nouvelles Calédoniennes reported, quoting a statement from the Vatican Palace.

The papal trip could take place during the second half of 2001 and would involve Australia first, then New Zealand and then the French territory of New Caledonia.

In Australia, Pope John Paul's itinerary would include Sydney and Melbourne, where plans are already being made.

Mentions had been made of the visit last year, but that plan was revised due to the Pontiff's poor health.

The Pope would take the opportunity of this Pacific trip (which would be his third to Australia, after 1986 and 1995) to hand over a final document from an Oceania Bishop Synod that was held in Rome in 1998.

Indications from Paris suggest that if the Pope goes to New Caledonia, according to protocol, he should be welcomed by the Head of State, Jacques Chirac, who would make a trip from Paris to the French Pacific territory for the occasion.

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