World Youth Week underway

 Hundreds of thousands of young people have been pouring into Rome for the 15th World Youth Week. The Vatican reported that, after greeting a huge crowd of Italian young people gathered in front of the Basilica St John Lateran, Pope John Paul II proceeded to St Peter's Square for a further welcoming ceremony for young pilgrims from around the world. He said: "Your faces bring to mind, and in a way make present here, all the young people that it has been my privilege to meet on my apostolic journeys throughout the world in these years at the end of the millennium. To each of you I say: Peace be with you!" He then welcomed individually the groups from Africa, America, Asia, Europe and Oceania, saying: "With special affection I greet the group of young people from countries where hatred, violence and war bring suffering to the life of entire populations. Thanks to the solidarity shown by all the youth here present, they have been able to come here this evening. To them I say, in your name as well, that in our gathering we are close to them as brothers and sisters; with all of you, I ask for them and for their people a time of peace in justice and freedom. "I mention too the young people of other Churches and Ecclesial Communities who are here this evening with some of their pastors: may the World Youth Day be another occasion for us to know each other and to implore together from the Spirit of the Lord the gift of the perfect unity of all Christians! "Dear friends from the five continents, I am happy to inaugurate with you this evening the Jubilee of Young People. Pilgrims in the footsteps of the Apostles, imitate their faith." Opening the second part of his address, the Pope said: "Dear friends who have travelled so many miles in so many ways to come to Rome, to the tombs of the apostles, let me begin by putting to you a question: what have you come here to find? You have come to celebrate your Jubilee: the Jubilee of the young Church. Yours is not just any journey: if you have set out on pilgrimage it is not just for the sake of recreation or an interest in culture. Well then, let me ask again: what have you come in search of? Or rather, who have you come here to find? "There can be only one answer to that: you have come in search of Jesus Christ! But Jesus Christ has first gone in search of you. To celebrate the Jubilee can have no other meaning than that of celebrating and meeting Jesus Christ, the Word who took flesh and came to dwell among us." A large contingient of young people from the UK are now in Rome. They include Laura Pugh, 19, and Matthew Holden, 23, who have been commissioned by the Bishops' Conference to represent England and Wales. Italian news services report that temperatures are extremely high. Crowds in Rome have been hosed with water to keep cool.

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