From Desmond O'Grady in Rome
MASSIVE security measures were taken on Sunday during Pope John Paul 11's first trip outside Rome since the assassination attempt in May.
Pope John Paul visited Collevalenza, an Umbrian village just over 60 miles from Rome and the nearby town of Todi.
In Collevalenza he celebrated mass at the Sanctuary of Merciful Love. called the Italian Lourdes. It was established by the 88-yearold Spanish nun Esperanza Alhama De Jesus who came to Italy in 1935 and underwent a Holy Office enquiry in the 1940's. She founded an order of nuns and pilgrims come from all over the world because of alleged miraculous cures in the sanctuary's ten pools.
However it was not well known to the Italian public until Pope John Paul decided to make his visit there. He visited the sanctuary, which is also a conference centre. while still a cardinal.
In his homily on Sunday morning he stressed the importance of God's merciful love and attributed his survival after the assassination attempt to it.
"Providence assigned me the task (of writing the encyclical Dives in Misericordia') in the contemporary situation of man in the church and the world" said Pope John Paul II. "Or you could also say that the contemporary situation assigned me the task before God of writing that message". A symposium on the encyclical Dives in Misericordia will be held at Collevalenza this week. The Pope also made an appeal for aid for victims of the South Italy earthquake which occurred a year ago Sunday.
Sister Esperanza Alhama De Jesus, who is now confined to a wheelchair, met the Pope, along with the rest of her nuns. There were about 10,000 to greet the Pope at Collevalenza, where he had lunch with the community, and another 5,000 in the main square at Todi.
Only those with special passes were allowed through the guards into the square in front of the Collevalenza sanctuary to await the Pope, whose arrival by helicopter from rome was delayed by an hour (until 10) by thick fog along the Tiber valley.