Pope's Portugal Trip Exceeded Expectations

Aide Says Visit Was High Point for Pontiff

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VATICAN CITY, MAY 14, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI’s apostolic visit to Portugal this week exceeded expectations, said a Vatican spokesman.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office, affirmed this on Vatican Radio while reflecting on the Pope’s trip, which ended today.

«It has been a truly joyful experience for the Pope so far, he has been welcomed to a rich and vibrant Church, in a moment of profound spirituality,» the priest said.

He spoke about Benedict XVI’s Marian devotion, noting that «he has visited many Marian sanctuaries,» and that the Pontiff’s visit to Fatima on Thursday was a «high point.»

«These immense crowds that welcomed him, and that prayed with him, show us how central Marian devotion is in the life of the Church today,» Father Lombardi affirmed.

He noted that «the organizers themselves weren’t expecting such vast numbers.»

Thus, the spokesman said, «this trip is a sort of surprise even if, you know, when you come to a traditionally majority Catholic country, and moreover to a place where every year May 13th» is celebrated, you may expect «an intense experience.»

«Nonetheless,» he added, «it has gone beyond our expectations.»

When asked about Benedict XVI’s comments that Fatima’s prophetic mission is not yet complete, Father Lombardi explained, «The Pope is telling us that Fatima is a place in which Our Lady and seers, their tradition, help us read the story of our times, the great difficulties of our times, in the light of faith.»

Still today, the priest noted, «there is the action of God, there is his Providence, in the goodness of the Virgin Mother but then there is also the responsibility of humanity, which often closes in on itself and because of sin we then have wars, difficulties and suffering.»

«In the midst of all this there is the key of prayer, penitence and conversion to open up the path to good,» he said.

«This is the prophetic message of Fatima,» Father Lombardi explained. «It helps us to read history, even the history of today and tomorrow, in the light of God.»

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