Circus Players Perform for the Pope

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 7, 2004 ( John Paul II’s first general audience of the year had a special touch: circus entertainment.

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More than 100 performers of the American Circus and other shows — in Rome for the Christmas period — were on hand in Paul VI Hall for today’s general audience, which attracted 4,000 people, including many children.

A juggler-clown performed before a smiling Pope, who expressed his appreciation by imparting his blessing.

The performers and their families greeted the Holy Father personally after the performance. He patted the children, some of whom were dressed up as clowns.

Other pilgrims sang songs for the Pope, who appeared appreciative. John Paul II has been able to rest over the Christmas period and appeared much improved physically, as compared to last October, when he constantly exerted himself during the celebrations for the 25th anniversary of his pontificate. Today he spoke in a clear voice and appeared in good humor.

On Thursday, the Holy Father will receive Ivo Sanader, the new Croatian Prime Minister, in a private audience. Next Monday, John Paul II will deliver his annual address to the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See.

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