Rome, like cities around the world, is preparing for Christmas. Shops in the eternal City?
Rome, like cities around the world, is preparing for Christmas. Shops in the eternal City have been open for business seven days a week this month, and Pope John Paul the Second has delivered his first major Christmas message from the Vatican.
SYNOPSIS: High inflation and a poor economic performance in Italy have seemingly not deterred Romans from a pre-Christmas shopping spree. Christmas shopping, reported to be very hectic, is a happier ending to a year that brought terrorism, kidnappings and the death of two Popes.
Italy's Christmas rush has its aggravating side - the notoriously slow state-run postal system.
But those Italians who have tried to outflank the sluggish mails by personally delivering their greeting cards have been hit by a new twist in Italy's bureaucracy: a new regulation says that even mail delivered by private citizens has to carry a postage stamp. Without it, mail cannot be accepted.
The Pope found it easier to deliver a Christmas message. In a major speech to Cardinals, he announced he will visit Mexico next month to attend a conference of Bishops. The trip will be the Pope's first since he was elected two months ago, and only the second by a Pope to Latin America. Ten years ago, the late Pope Paul the Sixth made the first papal visit to Bogota, Columbia.
The Pope also said he will send a special emissary to try and heal the rift between Argentina and Chile over sovereignty rights to three islands in the Beagle Channel. His decision to mediate was taken as another sign of the new Pope's willingness to pursue an active foreign policy. The Pope's announcement has been welcomed in Santiago and Buenos Aires.