Following John Paul II's official opening of World Youth Day, attended by 700,000 youths, a series of catechises began on Wednesday among groups scattered throughout Rome.
    The venues include 300 public squares, churches, tennis courts, and other venues where the youth pilgrims can ask questions and express doubts about the faith before 300 visiting bishops.
    The topic for the first day of reflection was: "Emmanuel: God With Us."
    Cardinal Camillo Ruini, Vicar of Rome, presided over the first day's catechesis at the Basilica of St John Lateran. Speaking on the topic 'Emmanuel: God with us', he referred to scripture bearing on the fulfilment of the divine promise.
    Meanwhile, Rome's ancient Circus Maximus has been the location for the setting up of 350 light-colored wooden confessionals placed in a semicircle. The confessionals are the focal point of what is called the 'celebration of forgiveness'.
    2000 priests are taking turns to confer the sacrament, working in shifts lasting from early morning until midnight. All the Roman Jubilee basilicas have also mobilised to offer the sacrament.
    The Vatican Jubilee Committee has reportedly made an unprecedented effort to emphasise that the pilgrimage is not a holiday, but a 'personal encounter with Christ's love'.
    Zenit (available soon)
18 Aug 00

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