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Enthusiastic Crowd Greets Pope in Spain


Greeted by enthusiastic crowds, Pope John Paul II has arrived in Madrid for his fifth visit to Spain, a two-day trip that will include the canonization of five Roman Catholic saints.

The pope was greeted by Spain's King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia at the ramp of his plane at Madrid's Barajas airport.

The pontiff, who turns 83 later this month and who was visibly more frail than on his previous four visits, was transported from the ramp on a rolling platform, as the king and queen walked alongside.

John Paul was then greeted by Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar and other high-ranking civilian and ecclesiastical authorities, as well as an enthusiastic crowd of well wishers that included 16 children dressed as Swiss guards.

In his welcome speech, King Juan Carlos thanked the pope for his repeated condemnations of terrorism suffered by the people of Spain. Seated between the king and queen, his hand shaking from Parkinson's disease, the pope set the tone for this visit by mentioning the word peace eight times in his brief discourse.

He also called on Spain to bring to bear the values drawn from its Roman Catholic heritage in the construction of a united Europe amid a diversity of cultures.

After the welcoming ceremony, the pope was taken to Madrid's city center aboard the "Pope Mobile" at the head of a cavalcade, to be greeted by thousands of people along the way.

The two major events scheduled for this papal visit, planned to last barely 31 hours, are a mass rally with thousands of young people who gathered from across Spain Saturday evening, and the canonization of five Spaniards in a mammoth outdoor ceremony in the Madrid Central Plaza de Colon on Sunday.

All five of the new saints were 20th century priests and nuns, including Father Pedro Poveda Castroverde, who was executed by republican forces during Spain's civil war.

Pope John Paul's schedule also included a 45-minute meeting with Prime Minister Aznar and with Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, leader of the main opposition Socialist party.

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