The Associated Press
April, 13, 2003
VATICAN CITY (AP) -- Pope John Paul II celebrated Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter's Square before tens of thousands of young people, urging "brotherly solidarity" with their peers suffering during the conflicts in Iraq, the Holy Land and elsewhere in the world.
Many waved palm fronds and olive branches as John Paul was driven to
the canopied altar atop the steps of St. Peter's Basilica.
The Mass, attended by a crowd of at least 30,000 people, marked the
start of a week of commemorations leading up to Easter, when Christians
celebrate the resurrection of Christ.
For the 82-year-old pope, Holy Week this year is tinged by the U.S.-led
war in Iraq. The pope was a staunch opponent of the war, and has frequently
expressed his concern for the victims.
Palm Sunday is also the church's World Youth Day in years the event
is not held outside of Rome.
Addressing himself to the young people in the square, John Paul said:
"And how can you not express brotherly solidarity with your contemporaries
tried by war and violence in Iraq, the Holy Land and other regions of the
"Peace is a gift of Christ," the pope said.
Palm Sunday marks Christ's entry into Jerusalem before his arrest and
crucifixion, when the people of the city strewed palm branches in his path.
Cardinals in red robes and carrying palm branches led a procession into
the square as John Paul arrived for the Mass.
The pope called Jerusalem "the city of peace, which through the centuries
has known violence, war and deportation."
"In some way, the city of Jerusalem can be considered the symbol of
humanity, especially in the dramatic beginning of the Third Millennium
which we are living," John Paul said.
The Mass was attended by delegations from Canada, where World Youth
Day was held last July in Toronto, and Germany, where it is scheduled to
be held in Cologne in 2005. The Canadians were handing over the 13-foot
wooden World Youth Day Cross to the Germans.
Later in the week, the pope is to preside over a Holy Thursday service,
a Good Friday evening procession at the Colosseum and a vigil service on
Saturday night in the basilica. He will deliver his traditional Easter