BERN, Switzerland – A stronger-looking Pope John Paul II, appearing to thrive on the enthusiasm of young Swiss Roman Catholics, joined 70,000 people Sunday in celebrating his first open-air Mass abroad in nine months.
The largely youthful crowd erupted in cheers as the 84-year-old pontiff arrived and waved his right hand to the crowd as he was rolled across the large stage.
“Dear young friends,” John Paul said in his sermon. “You should know that the pope likes you, accompanies you daily in his prayers, counts on your cooperation in the matter of the gospel and encourages you to proceed optimistically in the path of Christian living.”
John Paul held up well through the 21/2 -hour Mass.
At times his hands trembled and he had difficulty speaking, but when the pauses became long, the crowd encouraged him by cheering and he came back with vigor.
He appeared to tire somewhat as the day wore on. In a meeting with former members of the Vatican’s Swiss Guard Sunday afternoon, he read the opening and closing sentences of his prepared remarks thanking them for their service. But a bishop read the bulk of the short speech.