By Jesús Colina
VATICAN CITY, MAY 16, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Sin is the enemy we must fear and fight, Benedict XVI told the 200,000 people gathered in St. Peter's Square to show support for the Pontiff.
The crowds today at noon to pray the Regina Caeli and manifest their solidarity with the Pope and priests in this difficult moment for the Church, in the wake of recent scandals of sexual abuse committed by some members of the clergy.
The Holy Father, who in recent weeks has been the target of media attacks, stated, "The true enemy to fear and combat is sin, spiritual evil, which, unfortunately, also infects members of the Church."
In the early morning hours, pilgrims from various parts of Italy began to enter the square, arriving on busses and trains for this gathering convoked by the Consulta Nazionale delle Aggregazioni Laicali, a national organization of Catholic lay groups.
The arms of the Bernini colonnade were not able to contain the crowds, which were about triple the numbers that were present for Easter Sunday, and lined the entire length of the Via della Conciliazione, even spilling over into the side streets.
With the Pope
An enormous banner raised above the crowd read: "Together with the Pope."
"Dear friends," the Pope said, speaking from the window of his apartment in the apostolic palace, "It is beautiful to see this multitude today in St. Peter's Square, as it was moving for me to see the immense multitude at Fatima."
"Today you show the great affection and the profound nearness of the Church and the Italian people to the Pope and your priests," he added, "who care for you daily so that in the effort of spiritual renewal we may always better serve the Church, the People of God and those who turn to us with confidence."
There were also members of parliament and political officials present from different cities and regions of Italy.
The Pontiff recalled that in this moment it is necessary "to fear sin and thus be strongly rooted in God, in the good, in love, in service."
"That is what the Church, its ministers, united with the faithful, have done and continue to do with fervid commitment for the spiritual and material good of persons in every part of the world," he affirmed.
The Holy Father continued, "That is what you in particular constantly try to do in the parishes, in associations and movements: serve God and man in the name of Christ."
He encouraged everyone to follow "this path together with confidence, and the trials that the Lord permits will move us to a greater radicalness and consistency."
With a father
An hour before the meeting with the Pope, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, president of the Italian bishops' conference, presided at a prayer service, explaining "why we want to gather visibly around Pope Benedict XVI like children with the father."
"We want to pray with him and for him, wishing to support him in his demanding ministry, expressing our affection for him and our gratitude for his passion for Christ and all of humanity," the archbishop of Genoa added.
"Our prayer is the privileged way of making effective and visible the whole Church's nearness to the Holy Father and to those who have suffered because of those who should have been the image of Christ the Good Shepherd," the prelate said.
"In prayer," he concluded, "we also wish to express esteem and confidence in the priests for their irreplaceable ministry and invoke the continual support of the Consoler Spirit for them."