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Muslims rushing for tickets for Kazakhstan Papal Visit Mass

"There will probably be more Muslims than Christians attending the Papal Mass", according to Italian missionary in Kazakhstan Fr Edoardo Canetta.

Fr Canetta, who is on the preparatory committee for this month's Papal Visit to the country, presented the visit to about 60 journalists at the National Press Centre in Astana.

Passes for the Mass in the capital are being distributed, with 90% of applicants appearing to be Kazaks, who are traditionally Muslims.

"There is a real rush for passes", Fr Canetta said.

The Grand Mufti has asked the Muslim majority to prepare to welcome the important Guest. Several Mullah are even encouraging Muslims to attend the Papal Mass.

"Mass is a sacred act, they are telling their people, it will be good for us too".

This reaction comes as a surprise. In Kazakhstan only about 360,000, out of a population of 15 million, are Catholics. But the Pope's fame goes before him. Two years ago a national poll for the "Personality of the 20th Century" voted Pope Woyjtyla.