Pope to Visit Armenia

VATICAN CITY (AP)–Vatican officials said Tuesday that three trips–to Iraq–Vietnam and Armenia–would possibly be added to Pope John Paul II’s schedule this year.

A day earlier–the Vatican confirmed that the pope also would travel to a ski resort in Slovenia in September to beatify a 19th century bishop.

That word came on the heels of confirmation that John Paul would make a springtime trip to Romania–a pilgrimage viewed as a possible precursor to a future stop in Moscow–one of the few important destinations to elude the pope in two decades of globe-trotting.

Last week–there were hints that the pope might stop in Hong Kong later this year as part of an Asian swing being mapped out.

The Vatican denies that the flurry of additions to a 1999 papal trip list is meant to counter mounting concern and ever-swirling rumors about the pope’s declining health.

The trip announcemen’s were made after final details were worked out with local officials–said Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls.

In addition to the Romania and Slovenia pilgrimages–John Paul will make his longest trip as pontiff to his Polish homeland for 14 days in June.

Holy See diplomats and logisticians are trying to make a papal wish come true by pulling off a trip to Iraq so he can visit Biblical sites as part of the run-up to Holy Year celebrations in 2000.

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