POPE JOHN Paul has covered three Asian countries in the past three days and departs for New Zealand tomorrow on the second leg of his marathon 14 day progress through Australasia.
Leaving Rome's Leonardo da Vinci airport on Tuesday, he flew first to Dacca, the capital of Bangladesh, then on to Singapore, and then Fiji. "The jet age apostle" as some have called him will cover 34,000 miles on the longest pilgrimage of his reign. "Pray for me on my journey" he appealed to pilgrims in St Peter's Square on Sunday.
In Bangladesh, Pope John Paul was greeted by the President, General Ershad. After saying Mass in the national stadium on Wednesday afternoon he travelled to the national monument at Savar and then on to meetings with leaders of all religions at the home of Archbishop Michael Rozario of Dacca. The high level of poverty and social deprivation as well as the need for improved interfaith relations were major themes to emerge in the Pope's principal addresses.
'Genocide' in Bangladesh see page two Plans for his arrival in New Zealand tomorrow and then in Australia on Monday have not been altered at all, a papal official assured the Catholic Herald, because of newspaper protests about the Pope's views on the ordination of women in both countries.
In New Zealand, the eight year old lay community of St Clare's placed full page open letters in major daily newspapers focussing on the need for the Church to rethink its view on the ordination of women, on the admission of divorced and remarried to the sacraments, and on the desire of the local church in New Zealand to inculturate the gospel "rather than express a sort of Roman colonialism".
In Australia too, similar demands have been voiced by the Women-Church Movement, an ecumenical group based in Sydney. Again they used the press to make public their stance.
The Pope will spend eight days crossing Australia.
A full account of the Pope's visit to Australia will appear in the Catholic Herald over the next two weeks from Alan McElwain, our correspondent in Australia.