John Paul II Emphasizes "Joy of Forgiveness"

On 140th Pastoral Visit Within Italy

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FROSINONE, Italy, SEPT. 16, 2001 ( John Paul II extolled «the joy of forgiveness» as he mada a pastoral visit to this 13th-century city today under tight security.

About 40,000 people greeted the Pope, who arrived at 10 a.m. by helicopter from Castel Gandolfo, the papal summer residence.

Hundreds of people went up to terraces and looked down from balconies adorned with white and yellow balloons, the colors of the papal flag, in honor of the dead in the attack on the United States.

«The forgiveness of God! This is the joyful news that today´s world especially needs, » the Holy Father exclaimed during the homily of the Mass he celebrated in Vienna Square. The trip was the Pope´s 140th pastoral visit within Italy.

«Forgiveness is joy for God, even before it is joy for man,» the Pope said, commenting on the parable of the prodigal son.

God «rejoices when he welcomes the repentant sinner,» the Holy Father said. «What is more, he himself, who is Father of infinite mercy, inspires the hope of forgiveness and the joy of reconciliation in the human heart.»

The Pope was welcomed to Frosinone with extraordinary enthusiasm, but strict security measures. Four thousand policemen were deployed to protect the Holy Father and the faithful gathered in the central square, among whom was Italian Vice Prime Minister Gianfranco Fini.

During the Mass, prayers were offered for the victims, the wounded, and the rescue workers in the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.

At the end of the Mass, the Pontiff appealed to the American people «not to give in to the temptation of hatred and violence» (see related story in today´s dispatch).

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