VATICAN CITY, FEB 10, 2000 (VIS) - Pope John Paul this morning
   received 500 Maronite faithful from Lebanon, other Middle East
   countries and the diaspora, who are in Rome to celebrate the Jubilee
   Year 2000. "I have the pleasure," he said, "of announcing that, after
   being closed for many years, ... the Pontifical Maronite College in
   Rome yesterday officially re-opened its doors." The college dates back
   to the 16th century and Pope Gregory XIII.
   "I hope," the Pope added, "that the young Maronites who will
   henceforth live in this historical college will contribute
   efficaciously ... to Maronite ecclesial life, in fidelity to the
   spirit of the universal Church."
   John Paul II highlighted the Maronites' "unfailing and multi-century
   fidelity to the Roman Apostolic See" and "the strong ties which exist
   between the See of Rome and that of Antioch." He observed that their
   visit to Rome was also to celebrate the liturgical memory on February
   9, according to their calendar, of St Maro (Maron), "the cornerstone
   of your Church."
   "You full communion with the Church of Rome," underscored the Pope, is
   indeed a tangible show of the awareness that you have of unity: 'Unity
   is the primordial mark of the Church and is required by its profound
   nature'. This ecclesial unity ... will help you in turn to commit
   yourselves ever more to evangelization of the world."
   The Holy Father recalled with affection his 1997 trip to Lebanon to
   present the Post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation "A New Hope for
   Lebanon." This document was, he said, "'my cry of resurrection and
   peace', through which I 'presented again the biblical land of cedars
   to the conscience of the world."
   He urged "the beloved land of Lebanon" to "be a place where Christians
   can live in peace and fraternity with followers of other beliefs, and
   where they will be capable of promoting such coexistence. ... I also
   want to tell you today ... 'the Pope is always close to you'. I am by
   your side as a father and brother in this period when intolerance
   sometimes leads to the revival of spirits of hatred which we would
   like to see disappear forever."