Thousands of pilgrims flocked to the Vatican City at the weekend for celebrations leading up to the 80th birthday of Pope Paul, and on Saturday (24 September) many were rewarded with a glimpse of him.
SV PAN Pope Paul VI being carried at shoulder level through crowd at St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican City
SV Crowd during ceremony
SV Pope standing through ceremony
SV Clock PAN TO Pope during service
SV PAN Crowds during service (2 shots)
SV Pope blessing "casket" carried by boy and girl in national dress
GV Pope receiving gifts from other countries
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Background: Thousands of pilgrims flocked to the Vatican City at the weekend for celebrations leading up to the 80th birthday of Pope Paul, and on Saturday (24 September) many were rewarded with a glimpse of him.
SYNOPSIS: The crowds were packed shoulder-to-shoulder when the Pope made a public appearance on Saturday. He was carried in ceremonial style through the Vatican to St. Peter's Basilica, where a special service was to be held, and he gave his blessing to the crowds along the way. Inside the Basilica the scene was similar, with all available seating taken up by well-wishers.
Although the Pope's birthday isn't until Tuesday (27 September) the celebrations have been going on for several days, with record crowds at all the services. There has been speculation that the Pope might retire shortly, and although the Vatican denies this, some might have felt it was their last opportunity to pay their respects.
He was elected to the Papacy in 1963, and chose the name `Paul' as a symbol of unity, venerated by Catholics, Protestants and Orthodox Christians. During his reign he has always worked long hours, and although he's now seriously affected by arteritis he still keeps up a demanding regimen.
The Vatican says that Pope Paul spends long hours every day with his private secretaries and, while he seldom meets with his Cabinet these days, the heads of the Vatican congregations have regular discussions with him as individual members. He has travelled extensively over the past 14 years, and he's the first pope eve to have flown.
Gifts in honour of the Pope's birthday have been sent from all over the world, many of them works of art which will adorn St. Peter's Basilica. On Saturday he received gifts from the Italian people. Children from six Italian regions wearing national dress, came forward to make the presentations during the service, and it's expected there'll be further gifts presented when the celebrations reach their climax on Tuesday (27 September).