BY CHRISTINA WHITE
JOHN PAUL II launched Holy Week in Rome with a call for peace across the world.
Addressing the tens of thousands of young people who had gathered in St Peter's Square for the Palm Sunday Mass, he called for "brotherly solidarity" with people tried by war and violence in Iraq and the Holy Land.
The Holy Father has been a strong opponent of the Iraqi war and he expressed his concern for all the victims of the conflict. "Peace is the gift of Christ," the Pope said.
In an impassioned homily, he made reference to Jerusalem, the city Christ entered on Palm Sunday, which he described as the "city of peace, which through the centuries has known violence, war and deportation".
He continued: "In some way the city of Jerusalem can be considered the symbol of humanity, especially in the dramatic beginning of the Third Millennium which we are living."
The Mass was attended by delegations from Toronto in Canada, the venue for last year's World Youth Day celebrations. A 13 foot high cross was handed over to a delegation from Cologne in Germany, the venue for World Youth Day 2005.
As The Catholic Herald went to press, the Pope was expected to preside over a traditional Holy Thursday service and a Good Friday evening procession at the Colosseum.
The Easter Vigil will he held on Saturday night at St Peter's Basilica in Rome.
On Sunday, the Pope will deliver his traditional Easter message and blessing Urbi et Orbi, "to the city and for the world".
A new papal encyclical focusing on the Eucharist was expected to be published on Holy Thursday. The encyclical, the 14th written by the Pope, will be followed by a doctrinal note aimed at correcting eucharistic abuses.