Usually about 20,000 show up for the Angelus prayer on Sundays, but after this past week's dust up over the pope's visit to La Sapienza, an estimated 200,000 showed up to support the pope. Jumbo-tron televisions were also set up in major cities across Italia; pictured above is the big screen in Milan, where an estimated 10,000 listened to Benedict's Sunday address.
Here are some clips from the AsiaNews article on the event today:
Saint Peter's Square and the Via della Conciliazione burst at the seams with young students and the faithful, after the opposition to his presence at the university of Rome. Benedict XVI asks all to build "a fraternal and tolerant society". A call for prayers for unity, and the pope's appointment for vespers at Saint Paul's Outside the Walls.[clip]
Vatican City (AsiaNews) - Tens of thousands of young people and adults - more than 200,000, if the television linkups with other cities are counted - streamed into Saint Peter's Square from all over Italy to express their solidarity with Benedict XVI. It was a response to the invitation from Cardinal Camillo Ruini, vicar of Rome, after the violent controversy that had arisen at the La Sapienza university, leading the Holy See to decline the invitation for the pontiff to give the opening address for the university's academic year. Without any stridency, the pontiff exhorted all to work in a climate of "fraternity" and to "seek truth and freedom, in a shared commitment to a fraternal and tolerant society".
He then commented briefly on the theme chosen for the Week this year, "Pray without ceasing" (1 Thess. 5:17). "With this appeal, [Saint Paul] . . . wants to make it known that the new life in Christ and in the Holy Spirit brings the ability to rise above every form of egoism, to live together in peace and fraternal union, to bear each other's burdens and sufferings willingly. We must never grow weary of praying for Christian unity!".
Without argumentative tones, the pontiff recalled what had happened: "As you know," he said, "I had very willingly accepted the courteous invitation extended to me to speak last Thursday at the inauguration of the academic year at 'La Sapienza – Università di Roma'. I know this university very well; I respect it and I am fond of the students who attend it: every year, on various occasions, many of them come to meet me at the Vatican, together with their peers from the other universities. Unfortunately, as is well known, the atmosphere that was created made my presence at the ceremony inadvisable. I cancelled the visit unwillingly, but in any case I wanted to send the text that I had prepared for the occasion".
After the greetings in the various languages, the crowd burst into applause and chants of "Viva il papa" and "Freedom". The pope smiled and, waving goodbye, added: "Let us continue to live in this climate of fraternity, in the search for truth and freedom, in a shared commitment to a fraternal and tolerant society". In short, a lesson on authentic secularism from the head of the Catholic Church.
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