Rome (AsiaNews) - The Angelus of Benedict XVI will be followed tomorrow by millions of people in Italy and all over the world. The idea comes from Cardinal Camillo Ruini, vicar of Rome, who has invited Catholics and all the Romans to come to Saint Peter's Square tomorrow to participate in the traditional Marian prayer recited by the pontiff. The purpose is to "express closeness and affection to the pope", and to "share a moment of collective serenity and prayer" after the regretful cancellation of his visit to the university of Rome.
Benedict XVI was supposed to have gone to La Sapienza university to present the inaugural address for the academic year, in a visit scheduled for January 17. But fierce opposition from a small group of teachers and students - together with the inaction of the political and academic authorities - forced the pope to cancel the visit. Without intending to stoke the controversy, the pope in any case sent the text of his address (which AsiaNews published in its entirety; see 'Pope tells university to seek truth and goodness instead of presumption and division').
On January 16, when the pope's decision was made public, a press release from vicar of Rome Cardinal Camillo Ruini, recalling "the sad events that have forced the Holy Father to cancel his visit to the Università La Sapienza", said that "the Church of Rome expresses its full and filial nearness to its bishop, the pope, and expresses the love, admiration, and gratitude for Benedict XVI that live in the heart of the people of Rome. To allow everyone to demonstrate these sentiments, I invite the faithful, but also all of the Romans, to be present in Saint Peter's Square for the recitation of the Angelus next January 20. It will be a gesture of affection and serenity, an expression of the joy that we feel in having Benedict XVI as our bishop and as our pope".
To those who thought that the gesture might seem to be nothing other than a proof of political power, in "L'Osservatore Romano" (on January 18) Cardinal Ruini reiterated that the Angelus "is a prayer. Therefore it is absolutely not directed against anyone, it will be a gesture of affection and serenity". If, therefore, "anyone wants to interpret this event in any other way, he will interpret in an absolutely mistaken manner".
The invitation has met with an enthusiastic response all over Italy. In Rome, 150,000 persons are expected in Saint Peter's Square. Many more will participate in the prayer from their own cities. Big screens will display the event in many churches, to help those present pray together with the pope. In Milan, the Sunday prayer will be broadcast live on a big screen in the central square of the city's cathedral, at the initiative of the city council.
Even in faraway China, there is widespread response to the invitation. In Hebei, the Catholics will meet in the chapel at 7 p.m. local time (noon in Rome) to pray together with the pope.