Pope's Greetings to U.S. from Rome

A dispatch from my colleague, Michelle Boorstein, who is in Rome:

Hey America:
Pope Benedict XVI mentioned you at his big weekly address at St. Peters piazza!

Every Sunday at noon the pope gives a brief prayer and greeting to literally thousands of people who gather beneath the window of his palace, in the 340-meter-wide piazza, and listen to his words as they boom from massive loudspeakers.

As per usual, the crowds were out in force yesterday, apparently mostly tourists (lots of tour books to be seen, not much Italian to be heard) and many youth groups. One cluster was a group of Russian children singing Christian folk songs, another cluster was a choir of older men in matching red sweaters harmonizing in Greek, still another group from France waved little flags and cheered in excited bursts. And on and on, across the massive piazza. Children sat on their parents' shoulders. Hands holding cameras were aloft all over the place, trained on this little window, far above the piazza.

About 15 minutes before noon, a maroon flag rolled out of the window, signaling the pope was soon to come, and the crowd began cheering. At exactly noon a figure in white - too far to see clearly - came to the window and the pope's familiar voice poured from the speakers. The crowd went mostly silent; the only sounds were of the water running from the piazza's gigantic fountains.

After giving a 5-minute spiritual lesson in Italian, Benedict began his traditional greetings, in French, then English, then German, then Spanish, then Polish, then Italian again. It was like a mini-U.N. (Catholic style), with different linguistic groups across the piazza whooping after he spoke in each language.

"This Tuesday I leave Rome for my visit to the United Nations and the United States of America. With the various groups I shall meet, my intention is to share our Lord's word of life," he said in his thick German accent and slightly strained English. "Christ is the foundation of our hope for peace, for justice and for the freedom that flows from God's law fulfilled in his commandment to love one another. Dear brothers and sisters, I ask you all to pray for the success of my visit, so that it may be a time of spiritual renewal for all Americans."
A few languages later, he waved and vanished from the window, and soon so did the crowds from the piazza.

By Jacqueline L. Salmon |  April 14, 2008; 10:08 AM ET
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Comments

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I saw some great pictures of a group of priests, seminarians and religious sisters waving both the American flag and the Vatican flag. They also had spelled out on signs, "God Bless You." The photographer seemed to really enjoy them.

Posted by: KJR | April 14, 2008 11:57 AM

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