The audience was held in the Pope Paul VI Audience Hall and was filled to capacity with a great many young people, families with small children, priests and religious, and adults from various parts of the world.
When the appointed time had come, the Swiss Guard took their places prior to the arrival of the Holy Father:
A few moments later the Holy Father came out to greet the thousands of pilgrims who came to see him and to listen to his words.
As is his low-key and simple style, after an initial wave to the crowd, he simply walked across the stage to take his seat.
Pope Benedict XVI made the sign of the cross and greeted the faithful. Afterwards, the passage from the Gospel of Luke was read in several languages. The Holy Father devoted his reflections on the three last words of Jesus found in Luke's Gospel.
He concluded his reflections, saying:
Dear brothers and sisters, the words of Jesus on the Cross in the final moments of His earthly life offer challenging pointers for our prayer, but they also open it to a serene confidence and to a steadfast hope. Jesus, who asks the Father to forgive those who are crucifying Him, invites us to the difficult act of praying even for those who wrong us, who have harmed us, by learning how to forgive always, so that God’s light might illumine their hearts; and He invites us in our prayer to live in the same attitude of mercy and of love that God shows in our regard: “Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us,” as we daily say in the “Our Father.” At the same time, Jesus who in the final moment of death entrusts Himself entirely into the hands of God the Father, communicates to us the certainty that, however difficult our trials may be, however difficult our problems, however burdensome our suffering, we shall never fall outside the hands of God, those hands that created us, that sustain us and that accompany us on the path of life, for they are guided by an infinite and faithful love. Thank you.
Afterwards the various groups were introduced to the Holy Father and they cheered as they were introduced to him and some sang a short song for him (of varying quality). The more enthusiastic a group cheered, the wider was his smile as he waved to them in appreciation.
At the conclusion of the audience, the Holy Father blessed a replica of the Jubilee Doors of the Basilica of Saint Peter that, I believe, are going to be placed in a museum for Blessed Pope John Paul II in Poland.
After he blessed the doors, Pope Benedict XVI waved again to the faithful and departed.
This is the third Wednesday General Audience I have had the privilege of attending (1 with Blessed Pope John Paul II and 2 with the present Holy Father). Each time my faith is strengthened and my hope renewed.
Additional pictures can be viewed here.
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