The Papal Trip to Portugal showed the kind heart and strength of Benedict XVI, ever more clearly seen in the Visits which he makes to fulfil his mission as the Successor of Peter. In response, as in Lisbon, in Fatima, and in Oporto, the simple and intense affection of the Portuguese – so numerous and enthusiastic to the amazement of the impeccable organizers and even of the international media, not always benevolent – was expressed in such a passionate and moving way. Especially at the Shrine, the real spiritual centre of the country and clear evidence of the modernity of Mary, where the Pope was greeted by thousands of welcoming white handkerchiefs and a festive shower of flower petals, an ancient tribute of homage reserved for the Madonna and for the Pilgrim from Rome.
Thus this Papal Pilgrimage unfolded in honour of the sign of Fatima, in the footsteps of Paul VI and John Paul II, and with the centenary of the Apparitions already in sight, to confirm the message entrusted by the Virgin to the three small seers. Her prophecy deeply rooted in the Gospel remains as actual as it is distant from imaginary speculation: despite the selfishness which always threatens human life and peace, despite the continued suffering of the Church for the sins of many of her children. Benedict XVI reiterated that Evil will never have the last word, because the Risen Christ overcame it – and that therefore Christians can struggle and win through, by prayer, penitence and witness.
By the light of thousands of candles, the Pontiff placed a golden rose he had brought from Rome in front of the small statue of the Virgin, “like a son coming to visit his Mother and doing so in the company of a multitude of brothers and sisters”. He saw in the assassin's bullet which his Predecessor – who was nearly killed by it – had had set into Mary's crown, a symbol of the sufferings of the world and of the Church. Therefore, almost at the close of the Year for Priests, Benedict XVI chose to consecrate himself and all priests to Our Lady, with a gesture that is in keeping with the tradition of Fatima but that acquires full meaning in his confident appeal for radical fidelity, so necessary at this time.
And once again, “the Peter of today” – as the Pope has been called by his Secretary of State – is not alone. Surrounded and supported in the communion of Saints, by the affection and growing sympathy of many Catholics and others, the Successor of the first of the Apostles asked the faithful of Oporto, but speaking to Christians globally, for just one thing: “My brothers and sisters, it is necessary that you become witnesses with me to the Resurrection of Jesus”. To make God present in this world, where only the light of Christ ( lumen Christi ) can radiate the flame of faith, which if it goes unfed risks being extinguished. To illuminate the darkness like the candles on the night of Fatima which were reflected in the Holy Father's rose.
St. Peter’s Square
Sept. 18, 2019
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