Pope Begins 3-Day Pastoral Trip
CHIAVARI, Italy (AP)_ Crowds of people singing, waving and even weeping greeted Pope John Paul II on Friday at the start of a three-day pastoral trip in the little diocese of an old hiking companion.
Greeting well-wishers outside a church dedicated to the Virgin Mary in the northern town of Chiavari, he spoke of local problems _ an aging population, shrinking job opportunities, the rising cost of living.
At the heart of the church is an icon of Mary painted in 1493. The icon is credited with saving Chiavari from a cholera epidemic in 1835.
The pope urged people to turn to Mary for comfort and to muster the energy to ``renovate a society solid with justice and love.″
This quiet little resort on the Italian Riviera was abuzz for hours even before the pope arrived.
Crowds of people thronged its streets and shopkeepers festooned their windows with yellow-and-white papal flags. Special trains and buses brought in pilgrims, and local artisans labored over an altar in the shape of a boat.
A town of only 28,000 people south of Genoa, Chiavari is unused to such excitement. But its bishop, Alberto Careggio, is an old friend of the pontiff and for years helped organize John Paul’s summer vacations in the Italian Alps.
The 78-year-old pontiff is well-known as a world traveler, but he also makes pastoral visits inside Italy and to churches in Rome, where he is the bishop.
``It gives me great joy every time I visit a local church,″ he said Friday.
His schedule also included a seaside Mass in Chiavari on Saturday before he flies to his second stop, Brescia near Lake Garda. He returns to Rome on Sunday.