June 20, 06
60,000 at Loreto Pilgrimage Get a Papal Message
Event Held at Initiative of Communion and Liberation
VATICAN CITY, JUNE 12, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI had a special hope for the 60,000 participants in the 28th nocturnal pilgrimage on foot from the Italian locality of Macerata to the Holy House of Loreto.
The Pope said he hoped that the pilgrimage last Saturday would be a chance for the faithful to encounter Christ in this significant experience of prayer.
In a message sent by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Holy Father assured the pilgrims of his "spiritual presence" in this initiative, promoted by the ecclesial movement Communion and Liberation, according to the dioceses of Macerata and Loreto.
The Pontiff called on the pilgrims to reflect on the Pauline exhortation "Test everything; hold fast to what is good," from 1 Thessalonians 5:21, which was the theme of the pilgrimage.
"His Holiness hopes that those who take part in such a significant experience of prayer might find Christ, hope of the world, experiencing the maternal intercession of Mary, model of believers in the faithful following of the Lord," added the telegram.
Since the first pilgrimage in 1978, tens of thousands of people of all ages, both believers and nonbelievers, have participated.
The pilgrimage started at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday in the Helvetia Recina stadium of Macerata. The participants, led as usual by the initiator of this experience, Bishop Giancarlo Vecerrica of Fabriano-Matelica, carried rosaries and wore orange caps that were distributed at the outset.
In this edition, the "Macerata-Loreto Pilgrimage on Foot Commission" shared the Holy Father's concern over the decision of the Chinese Patriotic Association to ordain new bishops without papal approval, and decided to include in its prayer a special intention for the Chinese people and for religious freedom in the world.
The pilgrims were received in the shrine by Italian military men, quartered in Loreto, who carried the image of Our Lady of Loreto on their shoulders, and by Archbishop Gianni Danzi, papal delegate of Loreto, and Archbishop Stanislaw Rylko, president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, who presided at a Mass.
During the homily of the Mass, Archbishop Rylko referred, on one hand, to the present situation of a world, which has made secularism and secularization its "civil religion," and, on the other, to the many manifestations that show that "our hearts are thirsty for the true God."
"Faith is not an event acquired once and for all," the prelate said. "Faith is a continuous quest. As St. Catherine said: 'The more I seek the more I find; and the more I find, the more my thirst grows to seek you.'
"Pilgrimage is a journey of intense searching and of important discoveries for life. And it is a journey in company, because faith is not lived in solitude but in communion with others."