Tighter security as Pope ushers in Holy Week
Amid heightened security around the Vatican, Pope John Paul marked the beginning of Holy Week yesterday when he presided at Palm Sunday celebrations at the Vatican.
The celebration attended by more than 40,000 people in a sunny St Peter's Square was the first outdoor papal mass since Italian media reported that intelligence services feared a terrorist attack against the pope during the Easter season.
More police than usual were seen at the nearby subway stop a few blocks from the Vatican and reporters noted increased patrols by plainclothes police in the area.
Police began controlling the flow of the crowd at the start of the broad street leading up to the St Peter's Square, where people were checked with metal detectors.
Cardinals joined choirboys and ordinary faithful in the ceremonial waving of olive and palm branches to commemorate Christ's entry into Jerusalem the week before he died.
The Holy Father's sermon was mainly addressed to young people.
"Do not be afraid to go against the current," he said, urging them to shun the pack mentality of materialism. "Certainly, the message that the cross communicates is not easy to understand in our day, where material wellbeing and comfort are proposed and sought after as priority values."
Palm Sunday is also the Church's World Day of Youth. It is being celebrated locally this year, but next year's event will be an international celebration in Cologne, Germany.
The 83-year-old pope started the service with a bit of difficulty. But he later mustered his strength and read his entire prepared sermon in a relatively clear and strong voice.
In recent months the pope's condition has appeared to be much better than it was during celebrations marking his 25th anniversary in office last October, when aides had to read many of his addresses for him.
Tighter Security as Pope Ushers in Palm Sunday (Reuters 4/4/04)
Pope Sees "Moment of Hope" for Church in U.S. (Zenit 2/4/04)
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Pope's Address to a Group of U.S. Bishops (Zenit 2/4/04)
Pope tells flock not to worship materialism (CBC 4/4/04)
Pope exhorts 'faith over fashion' (BBC 4/4/04)
Thousands Join Pope John Paul II to Celebrate Palm Sunday (Voice of America 4/4/04)
Pope Leads Palm Sunday Services (Associated Press/Fox News 4/4/04)
Pope expresses confidence in U.S. bishops' handling of abuse crisis (Catholic News Service 2/4/04)
Pope urges US bishops to shoulder duties (Catholic World News 2/4/04)
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Pope enlivened by youth rally (Catholic World News 2/4/04)
Vatican official clarifies treatment of pedophilia charges (Catholic World News 2/4/04)
Pope: "Young people, do not be afraid to proclaim the Gospel of the Cross!" (AsiaNews.it 4/4/04)
TO YOUTH: DO NOT BE AFRAID OF ABANDONNING YOURSELF TO GOD (Vatican Information Service 2/4/04)
INTERNATIONAL STABILITY: STRENGTHEN ROLE OF U.N. (Vatican Information Service 2/4/04)
TO U.S. PRELATES: REFLECTIONS ON A BISHOP'S TRIPLE 'MUNUS' (Vatican Information Service 2/4/04)
5 Apr 2004