VATICAN CITY — Pope John Paul II celebrated the Roman Catholic Church's World Day of Peace on Thursday and proclaimed a special year honoring the Virgin Mary to be observed by Catholics all over the world.
The pontiff, leading prayers for suffering people worldwide, also appealed to kidnapers to free their victims and allow the captives to return to their families.
John Paul, dressed in glittering gold vestments, celebrated a solemn high Mass in St. Peter's Basilica to mark the New Year, the day Roman Catholics observe as a World Day of Peace.
"May 1987 be a year in which humanity finally puts aside the divisions of the past, a year in which, in development and solidarity, each heart seeks peace," John Paul said at the conclusion of his homily.
The Polish-born pontiff issued a special 20-page message Dec. 11 in honor of the World Day of Peace, in which he begged terrorists to cease using violence to further their political aims even if their goals are just.
Other Issues Raised
The message also singled out the arms race, closed frontiers, Third World debt problems and technological advances as threatening world peace.
During the Mass, John Paul announced that the Roman Catholic Church would observe a special year in honor of Mary, the mother of Jesus, beginning on June 7, the feast of Pentecost, and ending Aug. 15, 1988, on the feast of the Assumption of Mary.
Vatican officials said the special Marian Year was aimed at preparing the faithful for the 2,000th anniversary of the birth of Christ, which will be celebrated in the year 2000.
The Marian observances will be celebrated in each Roman Catholic diocese throughout the world, and special pilgrimages to Rome will not be required for the faithful to receive special indulgences or blessings, Vatican officials said.
John Paul said he will write an encyclical--a special letter directed to the world's 826 million Roman Catholics--on Mary before the observances begin.
The first Marian Year was celebrated in 1953-1954 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the proclamation of the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, a Roman Catholic doctrine that holds544499809sin.
After Mass, during his regular appearance in St. Peter's Square, John Paul prayed for kidnap victims everywhere. He singled out five Italian victims and urged their captors to set them free.