April 3, 2000
volume 11, no. 66
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Pope Enthusiastically Recalls His Pilgrimage to Holy Land

    VATICAN CITY, APR 2 ( In Rome, the Jubilee is breaking all records in history in terms of numbers of pilgrims. To give one example, yesterday, at the last minute, 35,000 Italians came for an audience. Another 6,000 Czech pilgrims joined their ranks, the greatest number of Czechs ever to come on pilgrimage to Rome. Today St. Peter's Square filled again at midday, when John Paul II appeared at his window to pray the Marian "Angelus" with the faithful.

    The Pope, who just a week ago bid farewell to the Holy Land, seemed very pleased indeed. He connected his enthusiasm, which he could not hide, with this Sunday's liturgy, which begins with the words "Rejoice, Jerusalem." This Sunday divides Lent in half, as Christians prepare more intensely to relive the passion, death and resurrection of Christ during Holy Week. It is one of the two days of the year that the priest has the option to wear rose-colored liturgical vestments, though Lenten violet may be substituted.

    "In the past days, I also experienced the joy of being a pilgrim from Rome in the Holy Land, laying a bridge between the two focal points of the Great Jubilee of 2000, Rome and Jerusalem. The spiritual joy I have in my heart for such a grace is profound, and for that I continually thank the Lord. Moreover, I am grateful to all those who accompanied me with prayer. In those moments and in those places I felt the whole Church with me," the Holy Father said.

    The Pope transmited that same joy to all his listeners. Indeed, this Sunday is liturgically called "Laetare [Rejoice] Sunday." "How can one not be attracted by this love?" the Pope asked. "God does not want the death of the sinner, but that he convert and live. In order to live, man must turn to Him, he must abandon ways that degrade his dignity and return to the Father's house."

    On Sunday, 99 days into the Great Jubilee, the Holy Father explained that it "has entered its most intense phase during this Lenten time. This is very visible in Rome: the Holy Doors of the four major Basilicas welcome without interruption ever more numerous pilgrims."

    In the first general audience that he held last Wednesday, two days after returning from Israel, there were 60,000 pilgrims. These figures are much higher than usual. It is estimated that during this Holy Year, 20 million pilgrims will visit Rome. Holy Week in the Eternal City will be one of the times of greatest numbers of people in the year 2000. "The same is happening in the dioceses in every part of the world. It could be said that Christians everywhere are on the road, either as individuals or as the people of God," John Paul II said.

    The Pope's joy in seeing all these pilgrims of all ages, races, countries and social conditions was obvious. He himself expressed it at the end of the meeting, when addressing the pilgrims from the Czech Republic. "I am happy to see how, for the first time in many decades, led by their Bishops, thousands of faithful from the Czech lands have come to Rome to the tombs of the apostles, to witness their communion with Peter's successor," the Holy Father said.

    Shortly before, John Paul II had sent cordial greetings to the participants in the Congress of the Catholic Workers Association, held this weekend in Brussels, and entitled "Be Intrepid and Dream about the Future of the New Europe: Work, Solidarity, Roots of the Civil Economy." "Be coherent with the Gospel and the social doctrine of the Church," the Pope said to the participants, who were mostly Catholic labor union members, so that "the contribution that Christian organizations can make to the formation of Europe" will be visible, the Pope requested. ZE00040206


April 3, 2000
volume 11, no. 66

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