The Pope in the Cathedral Square:
«Thank you for your warm welcome!»
“A warm welcome to you all, who have come here in such large numbers, and also to all those who are following this event on the radio and the television. Thank you for your warm welcome!”
This is how the Pope welcomed the crowd of believers who had come to Piazza Duomo to welcome him. A festive crowd of all ages from all over the world who had waited for him since the early afternoon.
The Holy Father arrived just before 6 pm, made a tour of the square in his Popemobile to greet the faithful, and then went onto the stage. “I am very happy to be here with you all,” he said, “and I thank God that He has given me the opportunity to visit your illustrious city. My first meeting with the Milanese people took place here, in Piazza del Duomo, in the heart of Milan, where the Duomo, the imposing monument that is the symbol of the city rises up to the sky. With its forest of spires it invites us to look up high, to God. Stretching up to the sky has always been a particular characteristic of Milan and has allowed the city to respond successfully to its vocation: to be a crossroads – Mediolanum – of peoples and cultures”.
In front of him there were 60 thousand people, and there were more than 100 thousand who had waited along the route from Milan airport to the City. Families and believers have come from all parts of the world and greeted him with flags from their countries of origin, banners with greetings to Pope Benedict, and they applauded him with warmth and fondness during his speech.
Standing beside the Pope, the Archbishop of Milan, Angelo Scola welcomed the Pope with the words: “Holy Father, it is with great emotion and joy that in this square, in the beating heart of our city and of the entire Milanese metropolitan area that has now become cosmopolitan, we welcome you today, the successor of Peter who has come to strengthen our faith”.
“The story and the fate of the “middle land” “Mediolanum” are steeped in a tight entwinement of Christianity and civilisation”, continued Cardinal Scola, “Through the centuries there has matured the physiognomy of a hardworking, hospitable and generous people. A people proud of its uniqueness, fuelled and guarded by the Ambrosian rite. Like a karst river, these traits continue to flow through the soil of the Christian community and civil society, even in this time of great hardship”.
“Milan has changed,” added the Archbishop, “and is looking for a new identity, it needs to review the world of work and finance, of which it remains the capital in Italy. In fact, we can already make out the features of the Milan of the future”.
On the stage was also the mayor of Milan, Giuliano Pisapia, who welcomed the Holy Father: “Your Holiness”, he said, “it is with intense emotion that I welcome you to Milan, on my behalf, and that of the city, and also of all those men and women from over 170 countries who have chosen Milan as their home. A welcome from the Catholics, who are the majority, and from all believers, because Faith is not a motive for division, but for cohesion. A welcome also from the non-believers,” continued the mayor, “diversity should not be a reason for confrontation but a source of aggregation”.
In his speech, the Pope gave a special greeting to the representatives of the families from all over the world who are taking part in the Seventh World Meeting of Families, and the greeting was returned with a thunderous applause from the square. Benedict XVI also turned his thoughts to those in need of help and comfort, and who are oppressed with worry. To persons who are alone or in difficulty, the unemployed, the sick, convicts and those who are homeless or lack the minimum necessary to live a dignified life. “To this end,” he added, “I am pleased with what the Diocese of Milan has done and continues to do to meet the needs of those families most hit by the economic and financial recession and for having acted immediately to help the population hit by the earthquake in Emilia Romagna. The earthquake victims are in our hearts and in our prayers, and on their behalf I ask again for generous solidarity”,
At these words the crowd applauded again and showed their sympathy with the earthquake victims.
Cardinal Angelo Scola then offered his parting good wishes to the Holy Father, “Thank you, Holy Father, for your generous presence and your teachings which we await with an open heart. You strengthen us in faith by arousing our enthusiasm in mankind”.