BY BRUCE JOHNSTON IN ROMP.
THE POPE is planning to travel "soon" on a pilgrimage to Iraq, according to the Baghdad weekly Nabdh al-Shahab.
The Vatican neither confirmed nor denied the weekly, which also said that the papal envoy, Cardinal Roger Etchegarey, would be flying to the Iraqi capital next month for an international religious conference. The publication went on to say that Cardinal Etchegarey would also be visiting archaeological sites to the south of Baghdad where Abraham is supposed to have lived.
The Pontiff has expressed before his desire to travel to Iraq and the surrounding area in the year 2000, in order to follow in the footsteps of Abraham.
In line with the present Pope's foreign policy being developed independently of and often in contrast to US dictates, the Vatican has forged ties with Iraq, which is also the home to a significant Christian population, while the Pontiff has repeatedly spoken out against the embargo against the country, claiming that it is only the poor who suffer.
• In an address on World Communications Day, John Paul II has warned of the exploitative and manipulative power wealded by the media.
The Pope warned that rather than helping people to come together, the media was being used to "reduce human beings to units of consumption or competing interest groups" such as "product sales or political support".
The Holy See emphasised the need by Christians to adapt to the evolving world of communication to make "possible the exchange of truthful information, constrictive ideas and sound values".