From ALAN McELWAIN IN ROME
pOPE PAUL is expected to fly next summer to Bogota, Colombia, to
attend the Eucharistic Congress which is being held from August 18 to 25. Confirmation of this long-standing rumour in Vatican circles came from Cardinal Antonio Samore, chairman of the Papal Commission for LatinAmerican Affairs.
He told a Press conference that the Congress would rank as one of those "exceptional occasions" which, Pope Paul has stipulated, will motivate his travels abroad.
Vatican sources, backing Cardinal Samore's statement, said the Pope was definitely expected to make the trip and hoped to go to other LatinAmerican places on the way, provided his health would stand it. Brazil and Mexico could be on his .schedule. A Latin-American tour by the Pope would provide a kind of aggiornamento for the Church there. where the shortage of priests has been acute for some time, vocations are lagging and, while Catholic influence has waned through the clergy crisis, Protestantism has increased rapidly.
The trip will be the longest in the Pope's four-year pontificate. The flight to Bogota alone would be 11,660 miles. whereas his previous longest. to Bombay, also for a Eucharistic Congress, was 7,700 miles.
Plans for visitors
AI. least one leading travel agency representative, convinced that the Pope's Latin-American trip would come off, is known to have gone to Bogota months ago to look over prospects for visitors.
Accommodation for the thousands expected to attend the Congress. even without Pope Paul's presence. would have been difficult. With the Pope there it will be a major problem, as at present there arc only about 5,000 rooms acceptable to visitors requiring at least normal standards. In Bombay. many visitors were accommodated in ships in the harbour. a facility not available to inland Bogota.
Ovation from 20,000
Pope Paul's convalescence from his enlarged prostate gland operation on November 4 is going so well that he was able to make an eight-minute appearance at a window in his apartments last Sunday, receiving a tremendous welcome from more than 20,000 people in St. Peter's Square.
On Monday. the Pope spent some time in the sunshine on the roof garden built for him above his apartment. It was also his first visit there since his operation.