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Monday, March 15, 2004


VATICAN CITY, MAR 13, 2004 (VIS) - This afternoon in the Paul VI Hall, the Pope presided at a Marian prayer vigil with thousands of Italian students on the occasion of the Second European Day of University Students. Students from ten countries, future members of the European Union, participated in the gathering via satellite link-up.

The encounter, whose theme was, "Christ, Hope for Europe," was promoted by the Council of European Episcopal Conferences (CCEE), the Commission of Episcopal Conferences of the European Community (COMECE) and the office of the vicariate of Rome for university pastoral ministry.

Before John Paul II's arrival there were satellite connections with university students in cities of those countries that will be incorporated into the European Union: Prague, Nicosia, Gniezno, Vilnius, Tallinn, Riga, Bratislava, Budapest, Valletta and Ljubljana.

Later the Pope lead the Holy Rosary and afterwards he greeted those present. "This Marian vigil," he said, "has great symbolic value. And you have an important role in the building up of European unity, which is deeply rooted in the traditions and spiritual values that have shaped it, dear university students. The university is, in this sense, one of the typical environments where, over the centuries, that culture which has been marked by a Christian influence has been formed. This rich heritage of ideals should not be lost."

The Holy Father then noted that the young people in Rome were going to participate in a pilgrimage in which they would carry the cross to the church of St. Agnes in Agony, "where you will renew your profession of faith. The university students in other countries, whom I cordially greet, will join you spiritually on this pilgrimage."

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