Pope John Paul leaves Rome next Thursday, September 11, for a pastoral visit to the Slovak Republic, the 102nd foreign trip of his almost 25-year papacy. He returns to Rome on Sunday, September 14. Upon his mid-morning arrival at Bratislava he is scheduled to speak at the welcome ceremony, after which he will go to the apostolic nunciature for private meetings with the president of Slovakia, the president of the national parliament and the prime minister. In late afternoon he will go to Trnava to visit the cathedral, returning to the nunciature at 7.45pm. On Friday morning, September 12, the Pope will fly to Banska Bystrica where at 10.30 he will celebrate Mass on National Risorgimento Square. Afterwards he will meet and have lunch with the members of the Slovakian Episcopal Conference and cardinals and bishops of the papal entourage in the Major Diocesan Seminary. His return to Bratislava, after a half hour flight, is scheduled for 6.30pm. On the Saturday, the Pope will travel by plane to Kosice and to then to nearby Roznava, celebrating Mass on the periphery of the city. He will lunch in the bishop's palace and in late afternoon depart again for Bratislava where is expected to arrive at 7.45 pm. On his fourth and final day, September 14, John Paul II will celebrate Mass in Bratislava, during which he will beatify the martyrs Basile Hopko and Zdenka Schelingova. He will lunch at the nunciature with the bishops of the archdiocese and members of his entourage and leaves for Rome at 6.20pm, arriving Rome at 8pm. Statistics on Slovakia Slovakia has 5,400,000 inhabitants of whom 4,034,000 - or 75 percent of the total population - are Catholic. Currently, there are 20 bishops, 2,474 priests, 3,075 religious and 1,092 seminarians. The Catholic Church in Slovakia runs 100 primary schools, 48 middle and secondary schools and 2 high schools and universities, attended by more than 37,500 students. In terms of social and charitable centres owned or run by the Church or religious orders, there are two hospitals, eight clinics, 20 rest homes for the elderly, invalid or handicapped, 18 orphanages, two family counselling centres as well as pro-life centres and 24 educational and rehabilitation centres. Source: VIS
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