John Paul II to Keep a Busy Christmas Schedule

Tight Agenda Disproves Rumors About His Health

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VATICAN CITY, DEC. 7, 2001 ( John Paul II will preside over the Christmas liturgical celebrations, as he has in recent years, despite the late hours and long ceremonies.

The papal program for the Christmas period, published today by the Office for Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff, counters rumors that the Pope is seriously ill.

The Holy Father will preside over midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. He will impart the traditional blessing «urbi et orbi» (to the city and the world) at midday Christmas, from the central balcony of St. Peter´s Basilica.

On New Year´s Eve, he will preside over celebrations in St. Peter´s Basilica, beginning at 6 p.m., including the «Te Deum,» the Christian prayer of thanksgiving par excellence, for God´s gifts in the past year.

On Jan. 1, John Paul II will preside over the Mass for the World Day of Peace, in St. Peter´s. The event will help prepare for the meeting of religious leaders in Assisi on Jan. 24 to pray for peace.

On Jan. 6, the Holy Father will celebrate the feast of the Epiphany with the ordination of new bishops.

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