by Anura Guruge
The pope, who will turn 84 on April 16, 2011, has five overseas trips scheduled for 2011 — though one is to San Marino, a micro-state, enclave in Italy.
He has already made 18 trips abroad, so these, to Croatia, San Marino, Germany, Spain and Benin, will be his 19, 20, 21, 22 & 23 trips outside of Italy.
Croatia and Benin are small countries, with populations smaller than that of large cities such as New York, London, Mexico City, Tokyo or Mumbai. San Marino, with a total population of less than 30,000 souls, is even smaller! Here is how they stack up, at #51, #71 and #160 in terms of their Catholic populations, against the 20 largest Catholic nations:
However, Croatia comes in at #21, in terms of the percentage of Catholics within the population. Benin, on the other hand, is quite a ways down the table below Australia and the United States. Benin is probably best known for two things: its role in 17th century slave trading (some of it in cahoots with Jesuits) and for the rather popular Cardinal Bishop Bernardin Gantin (1922 – 2008), Dean of the College of Cardinals from 1993 to 2002 — the only non-white to hold that prestigious office. San Marino is about as Catholic as you can get. The diocese, officially known as ‘San Marino-Montefeltro,’ is indubitably unique in that it spans two nations — Italy & San Marino, with 85% of the 91 parishes as well as the bishop’s see, in Italy. San Marino is an ‘associated state‘ of Italy, as is Vatican City. Italy is responsible for the defense of San Marino and there are no border controls between Italy and San Marino. Consequently, there are some, as was I to begin with, who do not consider the pope’s trip to San Marino as an ‘overseas’ trip. Here is Gloria TV as an example.
Though Benedict has not previously visited either of these countries, both these countries have been blessed with prior papal visits. John Paul II (#265) visited Croatia three times (1994, 1998 & 2003) , Benin twice (1982 & 1993) and San Marino one (1982).
Map op Pope Benedict XVI’s trips outside Italy per Wikipedia. Please click on map for the Wikipedia article: