|Vatican||POPE CELEBRATES WORLD YOUTH DAY WITH YOUNG PILGRIMS OUTSIDE ROME|
More than a million young Catholics from around the world have massed at a university campus on the outskirts of Rome to celebrate the Vatican's World Youth Day with Pope John Paul. |
The gathering is the biggest so far of the Church's jubilee year.
The Pope spent two hours greeting participants and listening to a program of music from around the world, which ended with a spectacular fireworks display.
"Tonight they heard us in Rome," he told the crowd from a huge wooden altar platform. "And they will never forget it."
The Holy Father urged the young people who had gathered to resist being "swallowed up by mediocrity".
And he told them he realised it was not easy for the youth of today to be true to their Christian faith.
"I am thinking of how difficult it is in today's world for engaged couples to be faithful to purity before marriage," he said.
City officials said the jamboree - which some commentators have called a "Catholic Woodstock" - was Rome's biggest crowd in living memory.
It took the Pope all of 45 minutes to drive slowly through the throng on his "popemobile".
It was Rome's hottest weekend of the year, and the crowds were frequently hosed down to keep them cool. Dozens fainted in the heat.
Veiled nuns prayed side by side with young women stripped down to bikinis and youths wearing only shorts.
Most of those present arrived on foot, some walking up to 10km to reach the sprawling Tor Vergata campus.
The pilgrims held prayer vigils all night, before the Pope returned in the morning to celebrate Sunday Mass.
|21 Aug 00|