DAILY CATHOLIC CHRISTMAS-NEW YEAR'S ISSUE December 24, 1999 - January 2, 2000 vol. 10, no. 245
NEWS & VIEWS
ROME COUNTS ON THE HELP OF VOLUNTEERS TO GREET THE CROWDS
60,000 Expected for the Opening of the Holy Door
VATICAN CITY (ZENIT).- The opening of the Great Jubilee is only hours away, when John Paul II will open the Holy Door in the Vatican Basilica. At the same time, in the Holy Land, Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah will solemnly enter Bethlehem, where he will celebrate Midnight Mass in the Church of St. Catherine, near the Basilica of the Nativity.
In Wednesday's general audience, the Holy Father urged the faithful to avoid distractions and concentrate on what is essential to this feast: "God became man to come to each one of us." He further renewed his appeal "to open wide the doors of our heart to the message of light and peace of Christmas."
Pilgrims are already pouring into Rome. According to the Central Welcoming Service of the Vatican Jubilee Steering Committee, some 60,000 people will gather tomorrow night in St. Peter's Square to attend the opening of the Holy Door and Midnight Mass with the Pope.
To cope with this "invasion," which is only expected to grow during the Holy Year, the Holy See and the Italian government are counting on the help of volunteers. It is expected that 40,000 people will help out for a few days over the course of the year. There are already volunteer teams at critical sites of the city -- near the entrance to St. Peter's Square, in the airport, and in the main train station. In coming days, more information centers will be opened near the Vatican and in the smaller train stations.
Alfredo Paoletti, head of the Central Welcoming Service, says that since the volunteers are being organized by both the Holy See and the government, they will be helping pilgrims and tourists alike, providing information about religious celebrations, assistance to the handicapped, as well as providing information on museums and parks.
"In addition to giving information to those who ask," explained Paoletti, "the volunteers will also be distributing the Pilgrim Card to those who come from outside the country." This Card is an instrument to guarantee that pilgrims coming from around the world will be able to participate in the major Jubilee celebrations.
Already 1.2 million people have reserved a Pilgrim Card for their Jubilee visits to Rome. The total number of visitors is expected to reach 26 million.
The greatest difficulty in Rome right now is the large number of construction sites that were not able to complete their work on time, in part due to a very rainy December. Most serious is the main train station, which is full of cranes and workers. Several streets are closed to traffic, leading to an even greater chaos than normal for drivers.
Jubilee volunteers recommend that pilgrims plan their visits well in
advance, especially using the Pilgrim Card. Otherwise, it could be very
easy to miss out on the free tickets to popular Jubilee events, and
extremely difficult to find lodging in the Eternal City.
Articles provided through Catholic World News and Church News at Noticias Eclesiales and International Dossiers, Daily Dispatches and Features at ZENIT International News Agency. CWN, NE and ZENIT are not affiliated with the Daily CATHOLIC but provide this service via e-mail to the Daily CATHOLIC Monday through Friday.
NEWS & VIEWS