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Rome Reports

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Almost 1,000 pilgrims from one of Europe's most atheist countries, visit the Pope

More than 40 percent of the population in the Netherlands is atheist. Every year, roughly 2500 euthanasias are carried out in the country. Only 16 percent of newborns are Baptized. About seven percent of Catholics attend Sunday Mass. But despite these numbers, stories of faith emerge from the shadows. More than 800 people from the diocese of Haarlem in Amsterdam, traveled to Rome for a chance to see Pope Francis in person.  MSGR. JOZEF PUNT Bishop of Haarlem, Amsterdam (Netherlands) "We thought it was a very good idea that our people, also our young people, you see, are a part of our pilgrimage. We are with about 1,000 people with here in Rome, to have the experience of the world Church. Well, we have hope that the Dutch Church will have a new vitality and a new spring.â?  A total of 100 teenagers are part of this group. They've made it a point to go against mainstream culture by living out their Catholic faith in a country that shies away from religion. People of all ages decided to visit Rome for the experience.  DEA BROERSEN  Diocese of Haarlem, Amsterdam (Netherlands) "We have a variety of ages in our group. We have babies that are a few months old, and we have people who are 90. It's a beautiful mix, and everybody was happy together. It was really a combination of all ages, female-male, grandparents. It was beautiful.â? Three bishops, 20 priests and 20 deacons also made the trip. Among the big crowd are 50 seminarians from Holland. They all agree, the trip has been simply unforgettable.  DEA BROERSEN  Diocese of Haarlem, Amsterdam (Netherlands) "We started off with a beautiful procession down St. Peter's. And we had a Mass, Eucharist, in the church itself, which was a beautiful start to the pilgrimage.â? The trip ended here in Rome, but the memories will travel far beyond the Eternal City. They wanted to show the Vatican and the Pope that Catholics are still active in the Netherlands despite being one of Europe's most atheist countries. Their mission was accomplished.  MPI/KLH  AA SV -PR Up:GRT