Pope greets thousands of Italian scouts in St. Peter's Square

Saturday, October 23rd 2004, 11:24 am
By: News On 6

VATICAN CITY (AP) _ Pope John Paul II greeted tens of thousands of Italian scouts in St. Peter's Square on Saturday, saying the strong turnout by young faithful ``gladdened his heart.''

The pope, speaking slowly but clearly, read his entire prepared speech to the cheering, waving scouts, whose uniforms turned the square into a sea of pale blue.

The 84-year-old pontiff, who is slowed by Parkinson's disease and hip and knee problems, also took a tour through the crowd in his wheeled throne.

The ANSA news agency put the turnout at about 40,000.

The scouts were celebrating the anniversaries of their organizations. The Association of Italian Catholic Guides and Scouts is for both boys and girls, while the Adult Movement of Italian Catholic Scouts is for people who remain active in the scouting world when they grow up.

``The presence of so many of you gladdens my heart,'' John Paul said.