Benedict XVI’s stay in Milan will certainly be remembered as one of the most important Journeys of his pontificate. It combined his Visit to the great diocese of St Ambrose and St Charles with his participation – so personal and truly extraordinary – in the World Meeting of Families. There might have been an artificial overlapping but, on the contrary, this did not happen – thanks to its long and careful preparation, to the incisive presence of the Archbishop and to the wisdom of a Pope who is ever better able to speak to immense numbers of people, and not only Catholics.
The three days in Milan thus revealed the authentic face of Christ’s Church which lives in the world with joys and hopes ( gaudium et spes ), despite the inevitable daily difficulties and events that are all too often dramatic and sorrowful. In this multi-coloured Catholic celebration the meeting with the young people in San Siro, the Pope’s dialogue with the representatives of families from all over the world and the great conclusive celebration will live on: three moments of Christian brotherhood which by its nature knows no boundaries or closure.
Yes, the Church is what was seen in Milan. She has no resemblance with the portrait with which some of the media would have liked to credit her by means of images that may be powerful but distort the facts, even going so far as to set reality aside, although it is inevitably human, hence imperfect. And it is right to remember that here it is not of course the obviously legitimate right to different opinions or even to criticism that is disputed, whereas the unequivocal attempt to spread persistent prejudices and commonplaces that are unfounded, as Benedict XVI himself assured us only a few days ago, must be rejected.
Fortunately, many people have grasped this very different reality, and the comments that appeared in two important Italian dailies are significant in this regard. In fact, Franco Garelli in Il Messaggero saw in what the Pope said in Milan “strong words, an inspired magisterium capable of representing a religious and moral reference point not only for believers”, while the very liveliness of the three days in Milan enabled Aldo Cazzullo to write in Corriere della Sera that “the Catholic world is never really in a crisis and indeed can be a useful bulwark against the entire plural society, which Benedict XVI addressed yesterday with finesse and courtesy, as even his critics are bound to recognize”.
The Milan Visit certainly comforted the Pope, as he himself confided to Cardinal Angelo Scola, but the one who saw or heard almost two million people during the three days was also sustained by them in the reflection, common to every human person, and strengthened in the Catholic faith shared above all by a great many families from every part of the world. And many were struck by the compassion and clarity of his words, from those on the people hit by the earthquake and on remarried divorcees whom the Church must guide and support, to the touching remembrance of his childhood and the simple Christian joy of that time – the same as that which is also experienced today, to the point of impelling Benedict XVI i to compare future life with that fullness.
St. Peter’s Square
Jan. 21, 2018
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