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Pope says catacombs play role in new evangelisation

Pope John Paul II said that the
catacombs of Rome are "places of new evangelisation, prayer, and cultural promotion for pilgrims from all over the world."

When the Holy Father received the Pontifical Commission of Sacred Archaeology last Saturday, he thanked the members for their effort in making the catacombs more attractive to pilgrims, creating new itineraries in some of the most important ones of Rome, such as those of St. Calixtus, St. Sebastian, St. Domitila, St. Priscilla and St. Agnes.

In his address to the commission, the Pope said that when "visiting the catacombs, the pilgrim can recall with his imagination the gestures of the first Christians, who organised a kind of 'common coffin' to ensure a worthy burial for all brethren."

"The values of solidarity, and the even greater one of charity, were the foundations of this choice," the Pontiff added. "The very structure of the catacombs underlines the profound establishment of such values in the life of those first brothers in the faith."

"In following the itineraries of the first Christians and making their devotional gestures his own, the modern pilgrim, often disoriented and vacillating, can come to discover with greater facility his own religious identity and decide to follow Christ with renewed enthusiasm, as so many martyrs of the first centuries of Christianity did."

The Pope also thanked the Vatican commission for its efforts to open the catacombs of St. Lawrence in the Verano and, "despite the difficulties and the complexity of the situations, those of St. Pancras and Sts. Marcellinus and Peter."