Bishop of Rome Visits His 291st Parish

Meets With Hundreds of Children

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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 4, 2001 ( The Bishop of Rome left the Vatican this morning for the first time in the new millennium, to visit to one of his parishes.

The Parish of St. Alphonsus Liguori was the 291st in Rome visited by John Paul II during his 22-year pontificate. From the start, he said he hoped to visit all 335 parishes in Rome.

Today´s visit was to one of the most recently built churches in the city. For 20 years, the 11,000 parishioners met in a garage with 120 chairs. Most of the parish faithful are workers and artisans who have gone to the outskirts of Rome to avoid the high prices of the city center.

The faithful delegated the task of welcoming the Pope to the 300 or so children of the parish, who prepared the celebration, which included flags, white and yellow balloons, flowers and photos with the Pontiff.

At the end of the Mass, when John Paul II met with the community, he addressed the youth in particular, and recalled last August´s World Youth Day. «Today the JMJ has returned to the parish, to prepare a new World Youth Day in Toronto, Canada, in the year 2002,» the Pope said.

John Paul II, who had arrived at 9:30 a.m. in good spirits, then said: «I have the joy today of making the first pastoral visit to a Roman parish, following the extraordinary event of grace of the Great Jubilee.» During the Holy Year the Pope had to interrupt the parish visits in order to welcome the millions of pilgrims who came to Rome.

The message John Paul II gave his parishioners was the same as the one he gave at the closing of the Jubilee: «Row into the depths,» which repeated the Gospel passage of the day´s liturgy. «Take the news of salvation to everyone,» he added.

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