Vigorous pope has Australia on his 2001 travel agenda
A papal visit to Oceania, including Australia and the Pacific Islands, perhaps New Caledonia, is being planned for later this year, according to Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls.
The Vatican news agency Zenit quotes an interview with another news organisation in which the spokesman says the Holy Father plans to hand deliver the final document of the Oceania Synod of Bishops held at the end of 1998.
The Pope will earlier visit visit Ukraine in June, following a trip to Damascus and Syria, following in St Paul's footsteps.
Navarro-Valls emphasised that Pope John Paul II will continue to lead the Catholic Church with the same vigor he did during the Holy Year.
He quashed rumours of a possible papal retirement, saying: "I never heard him say he would retire."
He also said that television images of an ailing pontiff are a distortion: "In person, he is better than the pictures on television because many times, when we see him on the small screen, he has had a hard day and is tired, which is reflected in his face," the Vatican spokesman explained.
When asked if John Paul II is still governing the Church, Navarro-Valls was firm. "He makes the decisions."