CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, SEPT. 7, 2003 ( John Paul II launched the final stage of the Year of the Rosary by beginning a series of meditations on the Marian prayer.

When the Pope met today with several thousand pilgrims gathered at the papal summer residence to pray the Angelus, he reminded them that on Oct. 7 he plans to travel to the Shrine of Pompeii, near Naples, Italy, "center of the spirituality of the rosary."

"It will be a particularly significant moment in the Year of the Rosary, inaugurated last Oct. 16 with the signing of the apostolic letter 'Rosarium Virginis Mariae,'" he said.

The Year of the Rosary culminates Oct. 19 during the 25th anniversary celebrations of John Paul II's pontificate.

In the weeks ahead the Holy Father will dedicate his Sunday meeting with pilgrims to meditate on the mysteries of the rosary: the joyful, luminous, sorrowful and glorious.

"The joyful mysteries make us contemplate the joy that radiates from the event of the Incarnation; a joy that does not ignore the drama of the human condition, but springs from the awareness that the Lord is at hand," he said.

The scenes of the joyful mysteries are: the Angel's annunciation to Mary; the visitation to her cousin Elizabeth; the birth of Jesus; the presentation in the Temple; and the finding of Jesus in the Temple.

To understand the joyful mysteries, the Pope said, it is necessary to recall the Angel's words to Mary when announcing Jesus' birth: "Rejoice!"

When we relive these moments of the rosary, "Mary helps us to learn the secret of Christian joy, reminding us that Christianity is above all 'euanghelion' -- good news -- which has its center, indeed its very content, in the person of Christ," the Holy Father explained.

Thus, the rosary is a "simple prayer of great profundity," he added. "Well prayed, it introduces one to a living experience of the divine mystery and inspires in hearts, families and the whole community that peace of which we are in such great need."