FROM OUR ROME CORRESPONDENT
POPE PAUL, the most widely travelled Pontiff in history, will leave at the end of this month on a tour of Asia which will take him within a few hundred miles of Vietnam and within sight of Communist China. It will be his first sojourn into Asia proper.
By the time he ends the nine-day trip—his longest in time and space --Antarctica will be the only continent he has not visited in his sevenyear reign.
Every one of the 73-year-old Pope's trips outside Italy has Set a number of historic "firsts". This tour of Asia and the Pacific sets several more — among which will be the first formal press conference he has ever held, According to Vatican sources, the Pope will also deliver "e message to Asia" while he is in Manila, and preside at a meeting of Holy See envoys serving in southeast Asia.
LONGEST JO U R N EY This will be the longest journey of his pontificate, taking him to Iran, the Philip
pines, Australia. Samoa. Indonesia. Hong Kong and Ceylon, The Italian airline, AI italia, could give no immediete estimate of the mileage he would cover, but the Vatican said that it would far exceed the original estimate of 20.000 miles based on a direct Rome-to-Sydney round trip.
No other reigning Pope has travelled so far. According to Vatican sources the scope of the journey is mainly religious, but the Pope is expected to renew his appeal for peace in Vietnam in his "Message to Asia." Earlier, there had been reports the Pope would visit Saigon.
VIEW OF CHINA
Some Vatican sources said the Pope would use his visit to Hong Kong to call anew for contacts with Communist China, a forbidden land for the Church for the past 20 years. But the likelihood of Peking responding to a papal approach has considerably diminished since the Pontiff appointed a new diplomatic representative to Nationalist China two days ago.
The only event scheduled during the Pope's visit to Hong Kong is celebration of a Mass in a sports stadium. The Pope will actually see the rounded green hills of mainland China from the plane taking him to the British Crown Colony.
The trip will begin on November 26 and end on December 4, and according to the programme Pope Paul will deliver 50 speeches, sermons and addresses. meet civil and religious leaders of each coun try and celebrate Mass 11 times in such varied surroundings as a football stadium, a race course and a cathedral.
Among his main speeches will be addresses to the southeast Asia Bishops' Symposium in Manila and the Four Bishops' Conference of Australia and Oceania meeting in Sydney.
Paul will be the first reigning pontiff to visit any of the seven countries involved. It will make him the first Pope to cross the Equator, although he got within a few miles of it when he visited Uganda in 1969.
The Vatican announced only that the Pope would call on President Ferdinand E. Marcos of the Philippines. President Gen. Suharto of Indonesia and Prime Minister Mrs. Sirmavo D. Bandaranaike of Ceylon.
Previous trips since his election in 1963 took Pope Paul to the Holy Land, India, the United Nations in New York, Portugal, Turkey, Colombia, Switzerland and Uganda.
As in each of these tours, there have been reports that some Vatican officials arc not completely happy with the• Pope's plans. They apparently object to the visit to Manila, on grounds that the government there is corrupt and conservative.
As in previous cases, however, the Vatican explicitly points out that the Pope is travelling not as a political figure, but as the religious leader of 600 million Catholics. He will stay overnight only in th,e residences of Apostolic diplomats.
The trip is more likely to see the Pope using the full weight of his office to remind a warring world it needs peace, and to appeal again to rich nations
to help their poor neighbours.
This has been a theme underlined in several previous trips, especially at the United Nations in New York, and the U.N.-supported International Labor Organisation (ILO) in Geneva, which the Pope visited during a one-day journey last year.
To commemorate the tour the Vatican Post Office is to issue a series of five stamps on November 26th. All of them, ranging in face value from 25 to 220 lire, will bear the Latin inscription "in universum munduns' tall over the world).
There will be an issue of '1.750,000 of the full series, and sales to the public will be allowed until December 31st, 1971.