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October 15, 2004

BBC News

Pope John Paul II has marked his 26th year as head of the Roman Catholic Church by attending a concert given by Russia's Red Army Choir. Unthinkable before the fall of the Soviet Union, the event staged in the Vatican's general audience hall was televised live in Italy and Russia. A Swiss Guard marched across the stage and a Russian military guard goose-stepped in the opposite direction. Cossack dancers capered where religious ceremonies normally take place.

On the stage, bathed in red light, the choir founded more than 70 years ago by soldiers who took part in the Bolshevik revolution sang traditional Russian songs in full dress military uniform. The Pope was wheeled on his portable throne into the central aisle to watch the performance. He seemed delighted and afterwards described Russia - one of the few countries he has never been able to visit because of opposition by the Russian Orthodox Church - as a land especially dear to him.

Posted by acapnews at October 15, 2004 10:12 PM