POPE MAKES HISTORIC VISIT TO ROMAN CAPITOL

     VATICAN (CWN) -- Pope John Paul II today visited the Roman Capitol, in a move which he saw as symbolic of the collaboration between "civil Rome" and "Christian Rome" in the preparation for the Grand Jubilee.

      Roughly 600 new public-works projects have been undertaken as part of the city's preparation for the Jubilee celebration. In 1996 the Italian parliament appropriate the funds necessary for the construction projects, and since July 1997 those funds have been available. However, many of the projects have already fallen behind schedule.

      However, the Holy Father did not mention the controversies surrounding the construction projects when he spoke of the civil administration and the Holy See as partners in the task of building up the city.

      Pope John Paul spoke to the political leaders of Rome from the ancient loggia of the Senate palace in what was once the administrative center of the Roman empire. He appeared to be in good health-- a fact remarked by journalists who still recall his temporary faintness during a Sunday ceremony at the Vatican.

      Rome's Mayor Francesco Rutelli, who is a practicing Catholic, greeted the Pontiff on behalf of the city, and presented him with a stone from the Coliseum, as well as a gold medallion inscribed with a testimonial to his role in "transforming world history during the final and crucial years of the 20th century."

      The Holy Father recalled that in 1870, his predecessor Pius IX had come to the Capitol, when a final assault by Piedmontese troops put an end to the Papal States, and the pontiffs finally abandoned their palace as well as their political role in that defunct geographical entity. The most recent visit by a reigning pope came in 1966, when Pope Paul VI visited to thank the city's administrators for their cooperation in the work of the Second Vatican Council.

      The Holy Father said that the civil and religious leaders of Rome were "not opposed, nor alternatives, but united together, in respect for their different competencies, by a passion for this city and a desire to give that city and exemplary image in the eyes of the whole world."

      The papal visit provoked two protests: one by a homosexual group and another by secular groups opposing official public recognition for the Holy See. The protesters laid flowers at the foot of a statue of Giordano Bruno, the Dominican theologian who was burned at the stake in 1600 because of heresy charges.

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January 16-18, 1998 volume 9, no. 12          DAILY CATHOLIC