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Break-Dancers Perform for the Pope

January 26, 2004 GMT

VATICAN CITY (AP) _ In an unusual spectacle at the Vatican, Pope John Paul II presided over a performance of break-dancers who leaped, flipped and spun their bodies to beats from a tinny boom box.

The 83-year-old pontiff seemed to approve, waving his hand after each dancer completed a move, then applauding for the entire group. He watched the performance Sunday from a raised throne.

``For this creative hard work I bless you from my heart,″ he said.

During the show, one dancer _ part of a Polish group that helps poor and marginalized youths _ planted his head on the inlaid marble floor of the Vatican hall and spun to loud applause from his group and from Vatican officials. Another performer flung his body around in a series of spins and handstands.

``Artistic talent is a gift from God and whoever discovers it in himself has a certain obligation: to know that he cannot waste this talent, but must develop it,″ John Paul said.

Earlier Sunday, members of an Italian Catholic youth organization enthusiastically cheered the pope’s weekly remarks in St. Peter’s Square. A few were invited into his papal apartment and helped him release doves from his window.

The pope, who suffers numerous ailments but appeared relatively strong Sunday, called out to the other children cheering below his window.

``I love you all. I love you very much,″ he said.