Pope John Paul II is determined to go to Syria in the footsteps of the Apostle Paul, Cardinal Roger Etchegaray said Tuesday.
He "is confident that he will go," said the French cardinal on the sidelines of the presentation of the Catholic Jubilee 2000 for politicians and parliamentarians that the pope is to celebrate this weekend.
Saint Paul was known as Saul of Tarsus before he converted to Christianity on the road to Damascus.
Deputy Vatican spokesman Ciro Benedettini said in September that the visit was being planned but added that it would not take place this year.
Two million Catholics and members of other Christian denominations live in Syria.
Religious and diplomatic sources in Damascus said in September that the visit would take place in early 2001 and would likely take place after the Orthodox church celebrates Easter in April.
The head of the Roman Catholic Church visited Egypt in February, and toured Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian territories in March as part of pilgrimages to biblical sites in the Holy Land, to mark the Catholic Church's holy year, or Jubilee 2000.
He had also planned a visit last January to Ur, an ancient city in southern Iraq, believed to be the home of the patriarch Abraham.
But the visit fell victim to opposition by Britain and the United States, which fear that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein could use it for political advantage -- VATICAN CITY (AFP)
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