St. Benedict Torch to Be Lit in London

Abbot Underlines Christian Origins of Europe

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LONDON, FEB. 16, 2011 ( The Torch of St. Benedict will visit the United Kingdom for the first time for a lighting ceremony in London. 

The torch initiative was born in 1964, when Pope Paul VI proclaimed St. Benedict of Nursia the patron of Europe. It symbolizes peace, hope and unity, and becomes part of an annual pilgrimage to the shrine of the saint in Cassino, Italy. 

Last year the pilgrimage started in Cologne, Germany. Previously, the torch also traveled to New York to bring a message of peace after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. 

This year, the torch will be lit during an ecumenical celebration at Westminster Abbey on March 2. 

The next day it will be moved to Westminster Cathedral for a Mass celebrated by Archbishop Vincent Nichols and attended by the abbot of Monte Cassino, Father Pietro Vittorelli, and Archbishop Renato Boccardo of Spoleto-Norcia, Italy. 

Father Vittorelli explained, «The Benedictine torch, which opens the celebrations for the patron saint of Europe, is a reminder of our common European and Christian background.» 

He continued, «Over the centuries, Christian culture has shaped European history, and has been its light during its darkest periods.» 

«Today, the European Union represents a common political, social and cultural reality which is held together and strengthened by its own different national identities,» the abbot affirmed. 

He noted that «the celebration of St. Benedict will help us to remember the Christian origins of Europe and to better understand how this background has in the past and continues today to form Europe’s culture and society.» 

After its lighting, the torch will be carried in a pilgrimage led by Benedictines from the Abbey of Monte Cassino, where it will arrive on the day before the feast of St. Benedict, March 20. 

The pilgrims will make a stop in Rome, where the torch will be blessed by Benedict XVI.

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