Monday, 18 February 2013

St Peter's Square 17th February 2013

Some 50 000 people are reported to have joined Pope Benedict XVI for the prayer of the Angelus at 12 noon on Sunday 17th February. The BBC report here cotains film that gives an idea of the size of the crowd. It is worth recognising that a more "normal" Angelus crowd in the middle of winter might barely fill the area of the Square between the obelisk and the Apostolic Palace.

The Via della Conciliazione had been closed to traffic, so it was possible to stroll up the centre of the street with the Vatican Basilica framed at the top. This photo was taken at about 11.15 am.

The next photo is to prove that I really was there. Taken about half an hour before noon. You can get some idea of the size of the crowd.

And I think if you enlarge the one below you should be able to see Pope Benedict at the window of the Apostolic Palace.

The BBC report I linked to above gives the same impression as the one that I gained on Sunday in St Peter's Square. Pope Benedict appears to be trying to live out the last days of his time as Successor of St Peter as if they were "normal working days", with only the most discrete acknowledgements that they are anything but normal. He has twice referred to being able to feel "almost physically" the closeness and the prayers of the faithful - at the General Audience (Italian here) on Ash Wednesday and speaking to the clergy of Rome diocese the next day. And the word "Grazie" - thank you - is his response to the warmth of applause that greeted him at Mass on Ash Wednesday and on Sunday in St Peter's Square. Pope Benedict is a man who uses words with great weight - so perhaps we should take that word "Thank you" very seriously.

My own text comment immediately after Sunday's Angelus:
I do love Bxvi ... but when I've gone to so much trouble, and he has many times his normal audience .... he just gives a catechesis and prays the Angelus like any other Sunday! No kidding! Why we love him - I don't think he could be any different. The Italians did manage to hold him up a bit, and he did thank them for turning out in such numbers. 
The full text of the Angelus catechesis and the greetings to pilgrims afterwards is here.
Un caloroso saluto infine ai pellegrini di lingua italiana. Grazie a voi! Grazie di essere venuti così numerosi! Grazie! La vostra presenza è un segno dell’affetto e della vicinanza spirituale che mi state manifestando in questi giorni. Vi sono profondamente grato! Saluto in particolare l’Amministrazione di Roma Capitale, guidata dal Sindaco, e con lui saluto e ringrazio tutti gli abitanti di questa amata Città di Roma.
[A very warm greeting finally to Italian speaking pilgrims. (Applause at this point). Thank you! Thank you for having come in such numbers! Thank you! Your presence is a sign of the love and spiritual closeness that you are showing to me in these days. I am deeply grateful to you. I greet in particular the administration of the City of Rome, led by the Mayor, and with them I greet and thank all the inhabitants of this beloved City of Rome.]
It was, of course, totally worth the trip. The experience of being in the Square "live" was irreplaceable.

But I don't think I'll do it again! Twenty two hours "out and back" at my age has proven exhausting. It is something to do once, and to do when you are younger!

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