VATICAN CITY – Pope John Paul II celebrated Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter's Square before tens of thousands of faithful, urging young people to renew their commitment to Christ.
Many waved palm fronds, olive branches and pussy willows as John Paul was driven to the canopied altar atop the steps of St. Peter's Basilica.
The Mass, attended by at least 30,000 people, marked the start of a week of commemorations leading up to Easter, when Christians celebrate the resurrection of Christ.
Palm Sunday marks Jesus' entry into Jerusalem before his arrest and crucifixion, when followers strewed palm branches in his path. Red-robed cardinals bearing palm branches led a procession into the enormous square.
John Paul noted that Palm Sunday is also the church's World Youth Day in years when the event is not held outside of Rome. He welcomed a delegation from Toronto, Canada, which will host the event in July 2002.
The pontiff, who turns 81 next month, held up well during the nearly three-hour Mass, leaning on his silver staff. His hands trembled, a symptom of Parkinson's disease.
Later in the week, the pope was to preside over a Holy Thursday service, a Good Friday evening procession in Rome's Colosseum, a vigil service on Saturday night and an Easter Mass in St. Peter's Square next Sunday.