Pope Blesses Torch of St. Benedict

Annual Pilgrimage Heads to London

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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 24, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI blessed the Torch of St. Benedict ahead of its first visit to the United Kingdom, and expressed his hope that the annual pilgrimage would «rekindle the light of faith.»

The Pope said this Wednesday, at the end of the weekly general audience. Upon greeting a delegation from Nursia and Montecasassino, who are accompanying the torch to London, the Pontiff added that he hoped the torch would also be «the bearer of harmony and reconciliation.»

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.

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.

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