Benedict makes first pilgrimage in Italy

Pope Benedict XVI is making his first pilgrimage since becoming pontiff, following in the much-travelled footsteps of his predecessor by visiting the seaside city of Bari.

Australian Associated Press reported that the Holy Father was to preside over an open-air Mass yesterday to close a national conference on the Eucharist, a major topic of reflection for the Catholic Church this year.

The trip was scheduled to last only a few hours, but it marked Benedict's first pastoral visit in Italy since his 19 April election.

Benedict has indicated he will travel more. He has said he is looking forward to attending the World Youth Day celebrations in Cologne, in his native Germany, this August - an appointment John Paul had hoped to keep himself.

He also told residents of Castel Gandolfo - the lakeside papal residence in the hills south of Rome - that he would spend the summer months there. The Vatican distinguishes between pastoral visits to Italian cities and visits to Castel Gandolfo.

Security was expected to be tight in Bari for the pope's visit, which was expected to draw tens of thousands of faithful. The city, on Italy's eastern Adriatic coast, would be patrolled by hundreds of police forces, while coastal waters would be closed to private vessels, local police said.

The Apcom news agency said the Italian Navy ship San Giusto has been deployed in the waters near the site of the event as part of the security plan.

Bari is home to the relics of the 4th Century St. Nicholas, one of the most popular saints in the Catholic and Orthodox churches.

Archbishop Francesco Cacucci of Bari told Vatican Radio last week that it was significant that Benedict was making Bari his first pastoral visit to close a conference on the centrality of the Sunday Eucharist.

"When John Paul II came to Bari in 1984, he called Bari the 'bridge to the East' precisely because of the relics of St. Nicholas," Cacucci said. "So if Sunday is the central day in the life of Catholics, we know that it's also so for the Orthodox world."

Pope to make first pilgrimage in Italy (Seven News/Australian Associated Press 29/5/05)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Conferenza Episcopale Italiana | Benedetto XVI a Bari per il Congresso Eucaristico
XXIV Congresso Eucaristico Nazionale

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30 May 2005