By Devett O’Brien
The Italian Catholic Action movements last night capped the Church’s day of celebrations with a dramatic candlelit walk from Castel San Angelo to St Peter’s Square. Yesterday marked both the 50th Anniversary of the Opening of Vatican II and the start of the Year of Faith.
Pilgrims flooded down Via della Conciliazione in a sea of light and song, halting the normally unstoppable Roman traffic. Over 40,000 people joined the celebration, far surpassing the organisers expectations of 20,000.
The IYCS’ Italian movement MSAC (Movimento Studenti di Azione Cattolica) together with other movements under the banner of Azione Cattolica organised the event to commemorate the parade on the opening night of the Second Vatican Council. On that occassion Pope John XXIII gave a historic image to the changing face of the Church when he told those assembled to return home, hug their children tenderly and “tell them that this hug is from the Pope.”
This time the Pope again greeted the pilgrims from his window as they gathered in the Square below. He told them that the fire of the Holy Spirit was a gentle flame but one that kept alive despite the challenging winds blowing around it. After thanking Azione Cattolica for organising the event he finished by repeating the famous phrase of his predecessor, sending a hug to the children of Rome and the world.
This procession offered a small but inspiring glimpse of the contribution that IYCS and its sister movements make to the New Evangelization around the world. It gave an image of Church united in its commitment to both prayer and action, witness and proclamation. A Church that through the evangelical action of the movements reaches millions of people in workplaces, schools and universities as well as through the important traditional avenue of parish life.