Huge crowds welcomed Pope John Paul when he arrived in Pompeii this morning. He was here previously, on October 21, 1979, a year after the start of his pontificate. After greeting Archbishop Domenico Sorrentino, prelate of Pompeii, the Pope read a prayer: "Christ is our peace. We look to Him at the start of this millennium that is already so tried by tensions and conflicts in every region of the world. ... May the Holy Virgin, from this famous marian temple on these ancient hills of Pompeii, that Bartolo Longo wished as a sign of peace for peoples, show herself to everyone as Mother and Queen of Peace." Following this was a meditation and recitation of the luminous mysteries of the rosary for peace in the world, and a homily by the Holy Father. "Today's visit," he said, "in a certain sense crowns the Year of the Rosary. I thank the Lord for the fruits of this year which has produced such a meaningful reawakening of this prayer, simple and yet profound, that goes to the heart of the Christian faith and appears very current in the face of the challenges of the Third Millennium and the urgent commitment to the new evangelization." Referring to the ruins of the ancient city of Pompeii, the Pope said "they ask the decisive question about man's destiny. They are witnesses to a great culture about which they reveal both luminous answers, and also disquieting questions. This marian city arose in the heart of these questions, proposing the Risen Christ as an answer, as the 'gospel' that saves." "Today," he said, "as in the times of ancient Pompeii, we must announce Christ to a society that is distancing itself from Christian values and is even losing its memory (of them). ... With ancient Pompeii in the background, the proposal of the rosary acquires a symbolic value of a renewed impetus of the Christian proclamation in our days." John Paul II underscored that he "wished this pilgrimage to be seen as a plea for peace. We have meditated on the mysteries of light, almost in order to project the light of Christ upon conflicts, tensions and the dramas of the five continents. ... With the tranquil rhythm of repeating the Hail Mary, the rosary calms our soul and opens it to saving grace. Blessed Bartolo Longo had a prophetic intuition when, in dedicating this church to Our Lady of the Rosary, he wished to add to the church this facade as a monument to peace. The cause of peace thus entered into the Rosary itself. "It is an intuition whose current meaning we can welcome, at the start of this millennium, so lacerated by winds of war and streaked with blood in so many regions of the world." "The invitation to pray the rosary that rises from Pompeii, a crossroads of people of every culture drawn by both the shrine and the archeological site, also evokes the duty of Christians, in collaboration with all people of good will, to be builders of and witnesses to peace." After the Pope's homily, everyone prayed the Supplication to Our Lady, a prayer composed by Blessed Bartolo Longo. Following this they sang "Salve Regina" while representatives from each of the continents placed flowers in front of the image of Our Lady of the Rosary. Before imparting the apostolic blessing, the Pope said: "Pray today and always in this shrine for me." After bidding farewell to civil and religious authorities, Pope John Paul returned to the Vatican by helicopter. Source: VIS
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