Castelgandolfo (AsiaNews) From the balcony of his palace in Castelgandolfo in front of a giant image of the Risen Jesus, Benedict XVI began today the series of prayers and reflections on the Regina Caeli, the Marian prayer that replaces the Angelus at Easter.
Benedict XVI, who came to Castelgandolfo yesterday for a few days of rest, said that "Christ is risen: hallelujah!" is "the most beautiful Christian announcement", the bearer of "true joy" and "real peace". Full of enthusiasm, pilgrims followed the Regina Caeli from the courtyard of the Apostolic Palace in Castelgandolfo or from a giant screen placed in in St Peter's Square in Rome.
Explaining the Regina Caeli invocations , Benedict added that "Mary kept in her the heart the 'Good News' of the resurrection, source and secret of the true joy and real peace that the Dead and Risen Christ conquered for us with the sacrifice on the Cross. Let us call on Mary, who accompanied us in the days of the Passion, to continue guiding our steps in this time of spiritual joy so that we may always grow in the knowledge and love of the Lord and become witnesses and apostles of His peace."
In the festive atmosphere of Easter, the Pope also mentioned the "joy of an important anniversary. Five hundred years agoApril 18, 1506, to be exactPope Julius II laid the first stone of the new Basilica of St Peter, [a structure] that the entire world admires for the powerful harmony of its forms".
"With admiration," Benedict XVI mentioned, "the artists who contributed with their genius to building and decorating" the basilica, people like Michelangelo, Raffaello, and Bramante. He said he was grateful to popes like Julius II who devoted themselves to erecting the basilica on top of the tomb of St Peter. He also thanked the staff of the [Reverenda] Fabbrica di San Pietro, [the church agency] that maintains and safeguards such a masterpiece of art and faith."
Finally, the Pontiff stressed that this anniversary should reawaken "in every catholic the desire to be like living stones (1 Pt: 2,5) to build the Holy Church in which the 'light of Christ' is brightly visible through charity that is lived and witnessed before the world."
Following the prayer, Benedict XVI greeted in different languages the pilgrims who had gathered in the courtyard of the Apostolic Palace. When he came to greet them in Italian, a group of young people from Naples (Italy) began to sing a well-known Neapolitan song, Ohi vita, Ohi vita mia. Amused and cheerful, the Pope responded saying: "I see there is no lack of Easter joy" among you.