Pope in Switzerland

 An enthusiastic crowd of more than 70,000 people attended Mass celebrated by Pope John Paul in Bern yesterday. The turnout greatly exceeded the expectations of organisers, who were hoping for about 50,000. There was a huge cheer as the Pope arrived on stage after touring the crowds in the field at the outskirts of Bern. Looking frail but in good voice, the Pope read prayers in Switzerland's three national languages - French, German and Italian. In his speech he encouraged the congregation to: "proceed optimistically in the path of Christian living." He also referred to Switzerland's "great tradition of respect for humankind" as typified by the Red Cross - which raised the issue of prisoner abuse with American authorities. Later in the day, young people poured water from the four main rivers of Switzerland - the Rhine, the Rhone, the Ticino and the Inn - into a marble font, which was then blessed and sprinkled on the crowd. On Saturday night the Pope was given a rousing reception by an audience of around 12,000 young people at an ice-skating rink. He told them he had no intention of retiring or giving up travel. He said: "It's wonderful to be able to offer oneself until the end for the cause of the Kingdom of God." A small group of about 100 people demonstrated against the Catholic teaching on condoms. This was the Pope's third visit to Switzerland, and his first overseas trip in nine months. * On hearing the news of past US President Reagan's death yesterday, the Pope expressed his sadness and sent his condolences to the family. Source: VIS

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