Continuing his pastoral visit to northeastern Italy, Pope Benedict greeted thousands of faithful packed into Venice's St. Mark's Square and urged the city and its people to assume important responsibilities in the promotion of a welcoming and sharing culture. He also recalled Venice's special vocation over the centuries of being a bridge between East and West. Our correspondent in Venice, Chris Altieri, sent this report on the pope's arrival in the lagoon city and his address to its inhabitants:
"The Sun was rapidly setting as Pope Benedict XVI approached the pier at St Mark’s Square in Venice Saturday evening, where he greeted the city fathers and the faithful before going into the Basilica of St. Mark for private, prayerful recollection and veneration of the evangelist’s relics, which have been conserved in the basilica for more than a thousand years.
All the way in, shouts went up from the square, barges blasted their water canon and church bells pealed their sonorous salute to Peter, as the lion of St Mark danced in the seaward breeze.
After his landing and reception by the civil authorities of the city, the region and the Italian republic, there was a brief tour of the piazza, where thousands of Venetians were on hand to greet his Holiness – and then, Pope Benedict climbed the stair and took his place on the richly carpeted raised red dais.
As they had that afternoon in Aquileia, Pope Benedict’s evening remarks in Venice went beyond the perfunctory exchange of pleasantries that these encounters always have – though in Venice, the perfunctory entails a great deal of pomp and pageantry. Rather, the Holy Father again praised the the past glory of la serenissima, and challenged this Venetian generation to be the equals and even the betters of their forbears, who, he said, were honest and industrious, with great sensibility, organizational skills and what in everyday language is called “good sense.”
“This patrimony of civil traditions, culture and art,” said Pope Benedict, “found rich development thanks also to Venetians’ embrace of the acceptance of Christian faith.”
The power of the faith to inform and perfect the culture in which and to which it is proclaimed: this has been a constant refrain of Pope Benedict’s pontificate: a motif of his thinking with the Church for decades before his election; and it has been a central theme of this visit to northeastern Italy.
“Over the centuries,” said Pope Benedict, “the faith transmitted by the first evangelists weaved itself ever more deeply into the social fabric, and eventually became an essential part of it.” – and the beautiful churches and the many devotional shrines that line, adorn and connect the streets, canals and bridges of Venice are visible proof of this.
Recalling the Church of the Redeemer and the Sanctuary of the Madonna della Salute – this last being an untranslatable play on the twofold meaning of the Latin and Italian words for health and also for salvation – both of which were built in fulfilment of Venetians’ vows, made to obtain divine deliverance from a plague that was upon the city – Pope Benedict said, “Your ancestors knew very well that human life is in God's hands and that without his blessing man builds in vain.”
“So,” prayed Pope Benedict, “as I visit your city, I ask the Lord to give you all a sincere and fruitful faith, a faith that can nourish both great hope, and the patient search for the common good.”
Listen to his report:
Pope Benedict XVI celebrates Mass for over 300,000 in Venice
Pope Benedict XVI celebrated mass for over 300,000 people outside of Venice on Sunday. During his homily, he called on the city to remember its historic role as a bridge between cultures, and said it was particularly important in light of the phenomenon of immigration and the new geopolitical circumstances.
Christopher Altieri is in Venice with the Pope, and sent this report…
I was several hours early, if you reckon by the schedule. In effect, though, I was running late if you judge by the teeming multitude of humanity in which I was caught when I tried to cross the footbridge that overpasses the main traffic artery and opens onto San Giuliano park – the sprawling verdant stretch of public space where at 10 this morning, Pope Benedict XVI celebrated Mass under a Sun-drenched Venetian sky.
Several articles appearing in local papers over the past couple of days have recounted the polemical tones with which certain elements within both the civil community and the Church have approached this Papal visit: too much time in organizing, too much energy spent in a thousand ways, too many interruptions of daily life, including traffic patterns on sea, air and land; too much money in a time when money is short all around.
The locals this morning were predicting a turnout of about a hundred thousand: authorities estimate that 3 times that number were on hand to greet Pope Benedict as he approached the sanctuary in the popemobile and hear the choir intone the tu es petrus.
In his homily, Pope Benedict returned to what emerged from the very beginning of his public remarks as the central theme of this visit to north-eastern Italy: the integral role of the Church in public life, commerce and culture.
“It is significant,” said Pope Benedict, “that that the place chosen for this liturgy is the Parco San Giuliano: a place where you usually do not celebrate religious rituals, but cultural and musical events,” and he went on to say that on this Sunday, this space is host to the Risen Jesus, truly present in his Word, in the People of God with their pastors, and pre-eminently in the sacrament of his Body and his Blood.”
To be in the world, though not of it: this tension is perennially present in the life of the Church.
It was a tension the Holy Father addressed in his remarks at the Regina Coeli after Sunday Mass in Parco San Giuliano, this time in a prayerful and a Marian key:
“The Lord grant the people of this land,” he prayed, “long blessed with a rich Christian history, to live the Gospel after the model of the early Church, in which, "the multitude of those who came to faith had one heart and one soul" (Acts 4:32).
The Pope invoked the Blessed Virgin Mary, asking her to sustain the apostolic labors of priests, to make fruitful the testimony of men and women religious, enliven the daily work of parents in the first transmission of the faith their children, light the way for young people, so that they might walk confidently on the path traced by the faith of their fathers, fill the hearts of the elderly with hope; be near and comfort the sick and suffering, and strengthen the work of the many lay people who are active in the new evangelization in parishes.
Finally, he encouraged everyone to work with the true spirit of communion in the world, which he described as the great vineyard in which the Lord has called us to labour.