DAILY CATHOLIC     TUESDAY     June 2, 1998     vol. 9, no. 106

from a CATHOLIC perspective

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          ROME (CWNews.com) - More than 250,000 pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square on Sunday for a special Pentecost celebration with Pope John Paul II, foreshadowing the effects of increased pilgrimages to the Vatican during the Jubilee Year celebrations in 2000.

          The Pope began the celebration of the feast of Pentecost along with an estimated 200,000 members of Lay Catholic apostolates, who filled St. Peter's Square to overflowing on Saturday evening, the eve of Pentecost.

          The Holy Father, who had issued an invitation to the leaders of lay movements to join him for Pentecost, stressed the importance of these groups in bringing the Gospel message to a secularized society. He preached to a crowd which spilled out onto the streets outside St. Peter's Square, and included the founders of several worldwide movements: Chiara Lubich of Focolare, Kiko Arguello of the Neocatechumenate Way, Don Luigi Giussani of Communion and Liberation, Jean Vanier of L'Arche, and others.

          Chiara Lubich thanked the Pope for his solicitude, and said the growth of lay movements has been "one of the main works of your pontificate." Cardinal Francis Stafford, the president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity (which had organized the encounter) agreed; "only the Pope could have done this," he said.

          The Pope, in turn, told the members of the lay apostolates that their young movements were now reaching spiritual maturity. "You are the first tangible proof of the outpouring of the Spirit," he said. He added the maturity should entail close alliance and identification with the Church through the hierarchy.

          On Pentecost Sunday itself, the Pope conferred the sacrament of Confirmation on 15 young people-- 5 boys and 10 girls-- during Mass at St. Peter's, with a congregation of some 40,000. In his homily, the Pope recalled the "unforgettable" encounter of the previous evening, and said "the climate of Pentecost" had filled the air of the Vatican on that evening, as the dedicated lay Catholics showed their love of God and their determination to "build a civilization of love."

          The Holy Father also stressed that the work of the Holy Spirit, begun in the apostles on the first Pentecost, continues to this day in the missionary work of the Church. He pointed out that all believers share in the Gospel mandate to spread the good news of Christ, and said the Church is now entering "a springtime sustained by the renewing power of the Holy Spirit."

          Traffic in the Italian capital was caught up in gridlock on Saturday as the pilgrims began to gather. About 2,000 chartered buses and special trains brought the pilgrims through the city to the Vatican. Traffic was barred from neighborhoods near the Vatican, and backups were reported along nearby roads. Cars on the beltway around the capital found the going slow. Some residents found flyers on their doors urging them to stay home.

          About 20 million more pilgrims than usual are expected to travel to Rome in 2000 for the celebrations marking the beginning of the third millennium. "Curfews in entire neighborhoods, buses which immobilized the Tiber-side road, appeals not to go out or to do so without cars are things which speak for themselves," said Giovanni Negri, a member of the group Lay Observer of the Jubilee. He said the group was considering going to court to protect citizens' rights to free movement.

Articles provided through Catholic World News Service.
CWN is not affiliated with the Daily CATHOLIC but provides this service via e-mail to the Daily CATHOLIC Monday through Friday.

June 2, 1998       volume 9, no. 106


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