Page last updated at 15:06 GMT, Wednesday, 18 May 2005 16:06 UK

Peak is named after late pontiff

Pope John Paul II in Italian Alps
Pope John Paul II used to visit the mountains to pray and rest

A mountain peak in central Italy where Pope John Paul II used to enjoy hiking has been named after the late pontiff.

The summit, previously called The Gendarme, was renamed during a ceremony in a medieval chapel on what would have been the Pope's 85th birthday.

The 2,424-metre (7,900 feet) "John Paul II Peak" is on Gran Sasso, the highest mountain in the Apennines.

The late Pope told pilgrims that in the Bible, mountains "were considered a special place to meet God".

The nature-loving pope, who also loved the mountains in his native Poland, died on 2 April.

"Mountains always exercised a strong and suggestive fascination over the mind of John Paul," Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins told Reuters news agency.

The cardinal called John Paul II "the mountain theologian".

Papal path

When the Abruzzo region announced that it was planning to rename the mountain peak, Monsignor Casolini said they had decided on the Gran Sasso because the late Pope "visited it many times in order to get some rest as well as to pray".

"This place always had a special place in the Pope's heart," he added, explaining that the Apennine mountains reminded him of his native Poland.

"He likes to walk on the paths surrounding the mountains, and therefore a path will also be named in his honour."

The Gran Sasso massif is the highest mountain in the Apennine ridge, which runs along the Italian peninsula.

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