Pope John Paul II, appearing in improved health as he nears his 83rd birthday, will pay a two-day visit to Madrid this weekend -- his fifth visit to Spain and his 99th trip outside Italy in his almost 25 years as Roman Catholic pontiff.
The schedule for the pope’s visit is light, and he will leave the residence of the papal envoy to Spain only twice. The major events scheduled are an address to an expected 300,000 young people at the Cuatro Vientos Air Base on the outskirts of Madrid early tonight and his proclamation of five new saints Sunday morning at an outdoor Mass in the center of Madrid.
John Paul also is scheduled to meet with Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar on arrival today and with King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia before departing Sunday. The pope suffers from painful arthritis of the right knee and a degenerative neurological condition believed to be Parkinson’s disease. John Paul will turn 83 on May 18 and will mark the 25th anniversary of his election Oct. 16.