A happy and exceptionally vigorous Pope John Paul welcomed hundreds of thousands of singing and dancing young people from around the world to Rome yesterday as he launched a six-day Catholic youth jamboree.
    The 80-year-old pontiff was clearly energised by the huge turnout and the chants of the crowds. He appeared to be in the best form he has been in months as he addressed young people in back-to back appearances in two huge Rome squares.
    Police said there were at least 300,000 people in St John's Lateran Square and more than 400,000 around St Peter's Square, making for some of the biggest crowds ever in the center of the capital. Many areas of the city were paralysed.
    The six days of World Youth Day festivities culminate on Sunday with a crowd expected to top 1.2 million on the Tor Vergata campus of Rome University on the city's outskirts.
    At one point at St John's, the crowd, which included people from some 160 countries, chanted ``Viva il Papa'' for some 10 minutes non-stop, forcing him to cut short his prepared address.
    The Pope responded: "Yes, long live the Pope, he already has lived 80 years and that's something. He already has lived 80 years and young people want him to be always young."
17 Aug 00

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