Alert Pope visits Pompei shrine
Pope John Paul II travelled Tuesday to a shrine near the ruins of ancient Pompeii, appearing alert, waving to crowds and asking the faithful to pray for him "today and always".
The Holy Father spent only three hours in Pompeii after arriving from the Vatican in an Italian air force helicopter to pray for peace. It was a major test a week before he faces a packed schedule to mark his Silver Jubilee as pope.
John Paul's speech at the shrine in Pompeii was often halting, and he skipped portions of his address, with the crowd of 30,000 encouraging him with applause each time he halted.
But at the end of a 90-minute appearance, he seemed buoyed. He asked for the microphone and, sounding stronger, urged the faithful to "pray for me in this sanctuary, today and always".
The pilgrims packing the square in front of the sanctuary responded shouting "Viva il papa".
John Paul had visited the shrine, dedicated to the Virgin Mary and the rosary, a year after his election as pope in 1978 and has spoken often about wanting to return.
"As in the time of ancient Pompeii, it is necessary to announce Christ to a society that is moving away from Christian values and even losing the memory of them," the pope said.
The century-old shrine draws some four million faithful each year to Pompeii, a sleepy town flanking the sprawling ruins of the city that was buried under volcanic ash.
The Shrine of our Lady of the Rosary of Pompeii | Papal Visit
Frail pope making a day trip to Pompeii (AP)
Pope closes year of rosary by praying for peace at Pompeii shrine (Catholic News Service)
Popes 'should be elected for only 10 years' (The Universe)
Pope leads prayers for peace in Pompeii (Independent Catholic News/VIS)
Pope arrives in Pompeii for Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary (Independent Catholic News)
Pope completes pilgrimage to Marian shrine in Pompeii (Catholic World News)
Stronger-Looking Pope Asks Faithful to Pray for Him (Reuters)
For Ailing Pope, Many Projects Remain Unfinished (Washington Post)
8 Oct 2003