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The Independent Online
POPE JOHN Paul II has urged Italy to get ready for the Holy Year 2000 and has asked everyone who can to give blood. He is concerned that there should be adequate supplies in case of emergencies for the year's expected 20 million pilgrims.

"In Rome, the supply is lacking, and this situation will become still more worrying with the influx of pilgrims during the Holy Year," the pontiff said.

He also said there was much work to be done on a spiritual level.

But spirituality isn't something Italian arms manufacturer Berretta are thinking about. Missionary priests have accused them of cashing in on the Holy Year.

The row has been caused because Berretta has baptised two highly decorated double barrelled shotguns, with silver handles, Jubilee and Jubilee II. They are shown alongside a photo of the Pope, in an arms lovers' magazine, with a text implying the pontiff might enjoy using them to pot pigeons.

But the company strenuously denies it is using the Pope and the Holy Year to make money and says the guns were first produced in 1996 with no intention of playing on the religious connection.

Fiona Bell