Pope’s visit draws a million faithful to Milan

MILAN, Italy– Around a million faithful from around the world gathered to be part of the solemn Eucharistic celebration presided by His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday, June 3 at the culminating event of the 7th World Meeting of Families.

As early as 3 a.m., pilgrims from 153 nations, including Filipinos, converged at Milan North Park in Bresso Airport to be part of the grand event.

Prefect Gian Valerio Lombardi estimated that 1.5 million people came to see the Pope. More than 60,000 people filled Duomo Square, while others lined-up along the streets to welcome the Pope on Friday, June 1.

Some 80,000 crowded Meazza Stadium in San Siro, as young people celebrated the Pope's second day of visit. Another 350,000 came for the great feast of testimonies in the evening of Saturday at Milan Parco Nord.

Lombardi also announced in a press conference that the Pope’s 3-day visit was very tranquil and there were no untoward incidents reported.

The Homily: Go and transform the world

“Your vocation is not easy to live especially today, but the vocation to love is a wonderful thing, it is the only force that can truly transform the world.” Pope Benedict XVI entrusted the world to families on his Homily at the concluding mass of the 7th World Meeting of Families in Milan.

Pope Benedict also calls on families to preach not only by words, but radiating the power of lived love.

"It is love that makes the human person the authentic image of God. Dear married couples, in living out your marriage, you are not giving each other any particular thing or activity, but your whole lives. And your love is fruitful first and foremost for yourselves, because you desire and accomplish one another's good, you experience the joy of receiving and giving. It is also fruitful in your generous and responsible procreation of children, in your attentive care for them, and in their vigilant and wise education. And lastly, it is fruitful for society, because family life is the first and irreplaceable school of social virtues, such as respect for persons, gratuitousness, trust, responsibility, solidarity, cooperation.”

“Dear married couples, watch over your children and, in a world dominated by technology, transmit to them, with serenity and trust, reasons for living, the strength of faith, pointing them towards high goals and supporting them in their fragility.”

“And let me add a word to the children here: be sure that you always maintain a relationship of deep affection and attentive care for your parents, and see that your relationships with our brothers and sisters are opportunities to grow in love" the Pope said.

Pope Benedict also addressed the faithful who, even though they agree with the Church's teachings on the family, have had painful experiences of breakdown and separation.

"I want you to know that the Pope and the Church support you in your struggle. I encourage you to remain united to your communities, and I earnestly hope that your dioceses are developing suitable initiatives to welcome and accompany you".

This year’s theme was “Family, Work and Celebration”.

The greetings

The Pope greeted the believers from all over the world and also thanked everyone involved in the organization of the 7th World Meeting of Families.

“I greet you with love and thank you for participation,” the Pope said.

He also encouraged everyone to be always in solidarity with the families living in difficulties. He said that he’s thinking about the economic and social crisis and the recent earthquake in Emilia Romagna.

Before praying the Angelus, Pope Benedict announced that the next World Meeting of Families will take place in 2015 in Philadelphia, USA.

The Holy mass was ended by praying the Angelus Domini in seven different languages: Italian, French, English, German, Spanish, Portuguese and Polish, and the final blessings of the Pontiff.

Pope donates to quake victims

Mons. Emilio de Scalzi, president of Milan Family Foundation 2012, also announced the Pope’s donation of 500,000 euro to the victims of the earthquake in Emilia Romagna.

The money was from donations for the Pope but had given it to the victims of the earthquake. The funds were symbolically handed over to Bishop Roberto Busti of Mantua.

Filipino presence

A large number of Filipinos was part of the grand feast. Some members of the Catholic Community of San Tommaso have spent the night outside the airport ground of Bresso where the assembly was held the following day.

For Sheila Asis of El Shaddai Catholic Community, having been blessed by Pope Benedict XVI together with million others from around the world was indeed an awesome and unforgettable experience. She said that she experienced the presence of God during the Eucharistic celebration.

Meanwhile, Allan Dave Castillo, who works for an influential journalist in Italy, was considered the most fortunate Filipino because he shook the Pope's hand and received a holy rosary from the Pontiff.

Castillo, a member of United Pinoygraphers Club (UPC) in Milan, got his press pass with the help of his employer. He was there to assist his wheel-chair ridden boss who belonged to the VIPs seated on the stage very near the Pope’s seat in Piazza Duomo.

Castillo took advantage of the great chance of holding the hand of the Pope and took photos of him during his arrival at Piazza Duomo to greet the people on Friday.

“Speechless! Unexplainable feeling,” he said. (by: Zita Baron – photos by: Allan Dave Castillo & Sherwin Salcedo – UPC)

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