Huge crowd gathers to show support for Pope Benedict

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — An estimated 120,000 people converged on St. Peter’s Square to express support for Pope Benedict XVI in dealing with the clerical sexual abuse scandal.

Thanking the crowd for their presence and affection May 16, Pope Benedict said, “The true enemy to fear is sin, the spiritual evil that unfortunately sometimes infects even members of the church.”

“We Christians are not afraid of the world, even if we have to be careful of its seductions. Rather we must fear sin and, for that reason, be strongly rooted in God and solid in goodness, love and service,” he said at his weekly Sunday blessing.

With trust in the Lord and a renewed commitment to following him, he said, the church can become holier by going through “the trials” it is facing.

The Italian National Consultation of Lay Groups, a Catholic organization, spearheaded the effort to bring Catholics to the square to join the pope and show their support. A variety of Catholic organizations and movements, labor unions and political groups joined them, filling St. Peter’s Square and spilling onto the adjacent streets.

Paola Dal Toso, secretary of the national consultation, told Vatican Radio that participants wanted to pray for the victims of sexual abuse, but also “to recall all the good that many priests do, which does not make the news.”

Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco of Genoa, president of the Italian bishops’ conference, led the crowd in prayer before the pope arrived at his studio window to address the gathering.

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