An avid hiker himself until a fall ended his mountain excursions, Pope John Paul II offered congratulations on Sunday to hundreds of young people who spent weeks walking to Rome for the Vatican's World Youth Day events.
    Greeting pilgrims in the courtyard of his Caastelgandolfo summer residence, the Holy Father noted that some had hiked nearly 500 km from a parish near Bergamo, in northern Italy, to join the events.
    Three days earlier, another group of Italians who set out a month ago from near Mantua, also in northern Italy, hiked up the boulevard leading from the Tiber to St. Peter's Square in Rome. Many in the group helped carry a wooden cross on their shoulders, the pope said Sunday.
    "I take the occasion to congratulate all those, from Italy and other countries, who have made, or are making, the Jubilee pilgrimage to Rome by foot," John Paul said.
    Hundreds of thousands of young people are travelling to Rome for the World Youth Day events, which start today.
12 Aug 00

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