Rome, Italy, Oct 15, 2003 / 22:00 pm
In an unprecedented gesture of appreciation, the President of Italy, Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, will congratulate Pope John Paul II on the 25th anniversary of his Pontificate in an address to the nation that will be broadcast on the country's three public television channels.
According the Italian press reports, the Head of State traditionally addresses the Italian nation only at the end of the year on December 31, making this address a unique event.
Messages of congratulations have poured into the Vatican from all five continents through the various official delegations that will participate in the anniversary Mass.
Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski and former President of Poland Lech Walesa will also be in Rome for the celebrations.