Pope John Paul saw Asia - with its tens of thousands of annual conversions to the Catholic church - as fertile ground for evangelization.

He once referred to the continent as "a church that is still being born."

The pope made at least a dozen trips to Asian nations during his 26-year papacy.

He twice visited the Philippines - home to two-thirds of Asia's Catholics and the only predominantly Roman Catholic nation in Asia. His 1995 trip drew an estimated three-million people. He also visited South Korea, Indonesia, Thailand, Japan and Singapore, among other countries.

Among the Asian nations that Pope John Paul had hoped to travel to and never did were Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, and Mongolia.

Church officials say he never ruled out a visit to North Korea.