Pope Meets Pilgrims Daily over Christmas Period
Given Large Number of Pilgrims, Decides to Stay in Rome
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VATICAN CITY, JAN. 1, 2001 (ZENIT.org).- For the first time in his pontificate, John Paul II decided to stay in the Vatican during the week after Christmas, in order to greet pilgrims daily. The number crossing the Holy Door during the final days of the Jubilee has surpassed all expectations.
In fact, over the past few days there have been 2-hour lines to carry out this gesture of conversion. At noon, the Holy Father has appeared at his library window every day to greet the faithful and offer food for meditation.
In previous years, the Pope had spent these days in the pontifical residence of Castelgandolfo, some 20 miles from Rome. However, the increase in the number of pilgrims this Jubilee Year encouraged him to remain in the Eternal City.
On several occasions the Holy Father expressed how overwhelmed he was by the vast crowd of pilgrims. On December 26, he said spontaneously: "This morning also, when I came to the window, I saw and see in this Square the multitude of people who, taking advantage of these last Jubilee days, wait patiently to enter the Basilica through the Holy Door."
"It is a moving sight for me, and reminds me of the people of God journeying towards the Promised Land. Christ is the true Door who leads his people into the Promised Land of Heaven!"
Scenes like the above, were repeated daily at noon, with the Holy Father leading the faithful in the recitation of the "Angelus."
On December 31, this daily meeting was awaited very especially, having attracted over 40,000 people. Before the "Angelus," a very colorful parade was organized in the medieval Italian style on the Via della Conciliazione, which leads into St. Peter´s Square. The parade included flags and banners and the three Wise Men on horseback. Italian folk choirs gave an added touch to the festival.
On the last day of December, Catholics worldwide celebrated the feast of the Holy Family of Nazareth. "Is there not something providential in the fact that the year 2000, the seal of the millennium, ends with the sign of the family?" the Pontiff asked his listeners.
Given the extraordinary number of pilgrims in Rome at the end of the year, on Saturday, December 30, the Pope held a general audience that beat all records for an ordinary event of this type; it was attended by 60,000 pilgrims, including 30,000 Italian members of the Corps of Firemen and Civil Protection.