Vatican, Jan. 21, 2008 (CWNews.com) – A crowd of about 200,000 people assembled in St. Peter’s Square for the regular papal Sunday audience on January 20, in a massive show of support for Pope Benedict XVI (bio – news).
After the Pontiff cancelled a scheduled appearance at La Sapienza university on January 17, due to noisy public protests, Cardinal Camillo Ruini (bio – news)suggested that Catholics in Rome should attend the regular Angelus audience to show solidarity with the Pontiff. The result was a full crowd in St. Peter’s Square, with many participants carrying signs and joining in chants to underline their support.
Pope Benedict was repeatedly interrupted by applause as he addressed the crowd, particularly when he spoke about his plans to speak at La Sapienza and his lifelong commitment to freedom of academic inquiry. At one point the crowd, taking up the Pope’s argument, joined in a chant of “Freedom! Freedom! Freedom!”
The Pope thanked the crowd for showing its commitment to “a more fraternal and tolerant society.” He remarked that although his appearance at La Sapienza was rendered “inappropriate” by the protests, he remained dedicated to “frank and respectful dialogue between different points of view.” Speaking directly to the many students and professors who were in the crowd, the Pontiff urged them “always to be respectful of the opinions of others and to seek truth and goodness with a free and responsible spirit.”
The Sunday event was relayed by an audio-visual signal to another large crowd in Milan, where another large crowd– estimated at about 10,000– watched the Angelus audience on a large video screen.
At the Vatican, the large crowd included a noteworthy collection of Italian political leaders, including deputy prime minister Francesco Rutelli, Rome’s Rome’s deputy mayor Mariapia Garavaglia, and Senate member Paola Binetti. Also present were former justice minister Clemente Mastella, the leader of Italy’s Christian Democrats, Pier Ferdinando Casini, former prime minister Giulio Andreotti, and former president Francesco Cossiga.
Frodo, these are perilous times we are entering.