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BY Jim Cosgrove
VATICAN CITY—Pope John Paul II asked the citizens of Rome to open their hearts and their homes to Jesus and to the thousands of pilgrims who will visit the city during next year's Great Jubilee.
“Christian Rome, do not hesitate to open the doors of your homes to pilgrims,” the Pope said in a Nov. 3 message to the city.
“Exercise fraternal hospitality with joy, particularly during the most meaningful and largest events such as World Youth Day,” he wrote.
World Youth Day, planned for Aug. 15–20, is expected draw two million young people, according to ZENIT, the Rome-based news service, with Jubilee pilgrims expected to total some 30 million.
“At present, the city is in a state of chaos, as public works, which began because of the Jubilee, are still yet to be completed,” reported ZENIT. “All this is a real trial of patience in people's daily life, in a city where chaos is virtually chronic.”
The press officer for World Youth Day at the Italian bishops’ conference in Rome said Nov. 3 that organizers have just begun their appeal to families to host young people during the event.
While most World Youth Day participants will be housed in hotels, religious institutions or schools, the willingness of families to participate is important as a sign of welcome and involvement, the spokesman said.
Pope John Paul said those who offer hospitality and assistance to Holy Year pilgrims — especially to those who are poor, elderly, ill or have handicaps — will experience “the joy of those who welcomed Jesus in Galilee, Samaria and Judea.
“The eyes of the world will be on Rome and how it celebrates the 2,000th anniversary of Jesus’ birth,” the Pope said.
An “intensity of faith and Gospel love, especially in hospitality, will help the world see the transforming and life-giving power of Christianity,” he said.
“For believers, the Pope said, “the Jubilee is a fitting time to leave aside their habitual way of living the faith and rediscover true friendship with the Lord.
“It is an opportune time to give conversion the meaning of a complete break with sin, experiencing the joy of pardon accepted and given.”
The Jubilee “is a most favorable time to rediscover communion and brotherhood in parishes, movements and communities by promoting inclusion and reconciliation.”
Pope John Paul said Romans must be spiritually as well as practically prepared to host millions of visitors.
“It is important that upon their arrival our brothers and sisters find not only a city ready to receive them and able to show them places rich in the memory of history and of faith, but especially a community which incarnates the Gospel and shows concrete signs of the supreme precept of love.”
(From combined wire services)