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New record for Pope

On 14 March, Pope John Paul II will become the third-longest serving Catholic Pope in the history of the Church, outlasting Pope Leo XIII, whose reign lasted 25 years and five months (1878-1903).

The Tablet reports that only Pius IX and St Peter had longer pontificates than John Paul II, who is 83. Pius IX reigned for 31 years and seven months between 1846 and 1878, while St Peter - the first Bishop of Rome according to tradition - led the Church for an estimated 34 to 37 years.

Despite age and infirmities, John Paul II is planning to continue his travels this year, albeit to closer destinations. Monsignor Renato Boccardo, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications and organiser of papal trips, was in Bern last week to talk to Swiss officials about the program for a visit on 5-6 June. The Pope is set to meet young people in Bern's Ice Palace and celebrate Mass in Allmend Park.

Austria, Poland, France and Mexico have also extended invitations, although a trip to Mexico is unlikely because the long flight would be difficult for the Pope, who suffers from painful arthritis of the right knee and Parkinson's disease. But a decision is expected by the end of March on a visit to the Mariazell Sanctuary in Austria on 22-23 May to meet the bishops of eight central European countries, and a trip to France in September to address the European Council in Strasbourg is considered all but definite.

Cardinal Jozef Glemp has indicated that the Pope might have to postpone until next year a visit to his native Poland to consecrate the new Temple of Divine Providence at Wilanow, a suburb of Warsaw.

The Polish cardinal told the Polish news agency PAP after meeting the Pope at the Vatican last Sunday that construction of the shrine was taking longer than planned. "I think the Pope will still be fine and will be able to visit," he said.

New record for the Pope (The Tablet 6/3/04)

Robert Schuman's Cause of Beatification Advances (Zenit 4/3/04)
Papal visit (SwissInfo 4/3/04)
Pope's first encyclical seen as program for pontificate (Catholic World News 4/3/04)

5 Mar 2004