Portugal Discovers Benedict XVI

Spokesman Reviews 1st Days of Trip

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FATIMA, Portugal, MAY 13, 2010 (Zenit.org).- The Portuguese are discovering the true face of Benedict XVI, which in no way is that of a distant or cold person, says the director of the Vatican press office.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi affirmed this in speaking with journalist Aura de Miguel about the first days of the Pope’s four-day trip to Portugal.

«The Lisbon stage was wonderful, accompanied by great crowds, not only in the esplanade for the Mass, but also on the streets, with great enthusiasm,» Father Lombardi said of the Holy Father’s first stop.

«The Portuguese thought that the Pope was a remote, distant and cold man and they have seen that it’s the contrary,» the spokesman asserted. «He is discreet, but very close, kind, full of love. We were able to see this with young people, but also with the children. This is a first result of this trip.»

Lisbon was being presented as a «great secularized city,» but it has discovered that «the Pope loves the Portuguese people and is by their side,» contended Father Lombardi.

The Vatican spokesman said the Pope himself has been «very happy» and «grateful» for his warm welcome in Portugal.

«He feels the love of the Portuguese and their desire to meet with the Pope, which is manifested in smiles, singing, joy; it is a very happy moment for him,» the Jesuit said.


Moving on to Fatima, where the Pope arrived Wednesday, Father Lombardi said the atmosphere is «completely different.»

He spoke of the «hundreds of thousands of pilgrims and the manifestation of a simple, popular faith. One feels the love, the joy of being with the Pope, of celebrating this great feast of faith: It’s an exceptional experience.»

Father Lombardi acknowledged that these four days of traveling are extremely intense, filled with public and private meetings. But, he said, the Pontiff has taken up the three priorities shared by the bishops of Portugal: «the culture, the priests, the social commitment — crucial points for the life of the Church and society.»

In this context, Father Lombardi said he is convinced that the trip «is going to help the renewal of the Church, not just in Portugal.»

On Friday, the Pontiff will leave Fatima for Porto. A farewell ceremony early that afternoon will conclude the trip, and the Pope is expected to arrive in Rome at 6 p.m. 

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