A tired Pope John Paul II appeared briefly on the balcony of the papal summer palace Monday to recite an Easter prayer and greet thousands of tourists and pilgrims.
About 3,000 people crammed into the tiny square of Castel Gandolfo, a wine-growing village 12 miles south of Rome, to hear him recite the traditional Regina Coeli (Queen of Heaven) prayer at noon.His voice sounded tired and his words came haltingly, reflecting the four days of public Easter ceremonies that culminated Sunday when he celebrated Mass before 200,000 pilgrims and tourists in St. Peter's Square. He appealed for an end to warfare and religious intolerance in a world "rushing headlong toward self-destruction."
In his annual "urbi et orbi" - "to the city and the world" - blessing and message Sunday, the pontiff specifically called for a halt to fighting that has racked Lebanon since 1975.
John Paul recalled that the eight days running from Easter Sunday to the following Sunday have for the Roman Catholic Church "a profoundly religious character." But he noted that for most Italians, Easter Monday - a national holiday in Italy known as Pasquetta, or little Easter, is a day for taking trips to the countryside or resorts.
"I greet all you who are spending this Pasquetta in Castel Gandolfo - as I am doing," John Paul said with a grin Monday. The crowd burst into applause and cheers that lasted a full minute.
John Paul has made a habit of resting in Castel Gandolfo at the end of Holy Week. He was to return to the Vatican in time for his regular weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square on Wednesday.