Pope John Paul II presided over a special Mass in St. Peter's Square Thursday to celebrate his 25 years as pontiff. He asked the thousands who attended the service to continue to support him in his mission as they have done for the past quarter century.

It was a very special ceremony for the pope. The sun was setting behind St. Peter's Basilica as the special ceremony to mark the 25th anniversary of his election was taking place. The choir sang beautiful hymns.

The pope appeared in gold robes and the crowd broke into applause. The mass was held at around the same time that on October 16, 1978 he first addressed pilgrims after being chosen leader of the world's Roman Catholics.

Pope John Paul appeared tired and emotional during the two-hour anniversary mass. He appeared watery-eyed and smiled after the dean of the College of Cardinals, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger praised and thanked the pope for his tireless efforts during his quarter century papacy.

The pope then addressed the multitude that had gathered for the open-air ceremony. His great difficulty and effort in speaking were clearly visible as he read only parts of his prepared speech, leaving the rest to an aide.

The pope recalled the day he was elected by the cardinals in the Sistine Chapel. That day, he said, he "experienced divine mercy in a special way."

"Today, dear brothers and sisters, I am happy to share with you an experience that has been going on for a quarter of a century," the pope said.

Just like on the day of his election, the pope asked the faithful for help and prayers to continue "in his service to Christ, mankind and the whole of humanity." He told the cardinals, dignitaries and pilgrims present that his future rested in the hands of God.