Two million young people from 170 nations—the biggest gathering ever held in Italy—turned out to greet Pope John Paul II yesterday for the Roman Catholic Church's 15th World Youth Day (WYD), a key event in Catholic celebrations to mark the millennium. The WYD festival began on August 14, and as the celebrations continued in Rome throughout the week, thousands and thousands more young Catholics gathered here. Most came from Italy, although France, Poland, Spain, the United States, the Philippines and Latin America were also well represented. The international media gave massive coverage to the event, hailing it as the "Catholic Woodstock" or "Popestock", a reference to the huge rock festival that took place in the US in 1969. Journalists from the around the world marveled at the ability of an 80-year-old church leader to attract young people in far bigger numbers than pop stars. The New York Timesdescribed the WYD as "the largest youth gathering ever held in the West". Only the WYD in Manila in 1995 has drawn a bigger crowd—four million young people.The Italian media said that one reason for the high numbers were the low costs—participants paid only $120 each for food and lodging, and young people from poor countries were not required to pay at all. A spokesman for the Italian bishops said that $3.5 million had been collected before the WYD to help pay for the visitors. However, the young pilgrims had to accept Spartan conditions—sleeping at campsites and in schools. Several thousand were received as guests of Italian families, and 15 young people from various countries were given accommodation at the pope's summer residence in Castel Gandolfo, 25 kilometers from Rome. On Friday evening (Aug. 18), near the Colosseum, about ...1
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