Record crowd attends pope's Mass in Paris
August 24, 1997
Web posted at: 1:39 p.m. EDT (1739 GMT)
PARIS (CNN) -- Pope John Paul II celebrated Mass Sunday as a record crowd of mostly young people turned out to mark the
climax of the week-long World Youth Days festival.
Police said more than 1 million people gathered at the
Longchamp racecourse, where the 77-year old pontiff was
greeted by a sea of multi-colored national flags from around
Flanked by hundreds of bishops, the pope greeted the huge
crowd from a vast cathedral-style podium, which had been set
up at one end of the racecourse for the service.
"Dear young people, your path does not stop here. Go forth on
the roads to humanity," John Paul told the faithful.
The turnout was considerably higher than expected for the
papal Mass, which marked the highlight of a six-day festival
that attracted Roman Catholic youths from about 160
The pope arrived on Thursday amid controversy over his
He spoke out firmly against abortion and contraception, as he
had in his previous visits to the country.
he addressed criticism by French Protestants over the fact that Sunday's Mass fell on the
anniversary of the 16th century St. Bartholomew's Day
massacre of French Protestants by Catholics.
The pope acknowledged the Roman Catholic church's role in the
1572 massacre and said that religious authorities could not
hide from the truth if they were to achieve reconciliation.
"Christians did things which the Gospel condemns," the pope
said in a vigil, during which he pleaded with young people to
revive faded Roman Catholic faith in the West.
"Belonging to different religious traditions must not
constitute today a source of opposition and tension," he
The pope also caused controversy when he visited the grave of
a noted anti-abortion campaigner, Jerome Lejeune, on Friday.
The ruling Socialist Party of Prime Minister Lionel Jospin
led criticism of the visit, saying it "regretted" the
Jospin argued that the visit could only encourage
anti-abortion militants to break the law.
Correspondent Jim Bittermann andReuters contributed to this report.