As the Holy Father was preparing for his pilgrimage to Austria, the news media was sounding the death-knell for his trip even before he began. “He’ll be badly received…” “People don’t want to hear what he’s got to say…” “Attendance will be sparse…” On and on the nay-sayers went. You’d think they’d learn. They’ve done the same thing before every one of Pope Benedict’s pilgrimages, and every time the reporters stand by, slack-jawed, shaking their heads at the unexpected crowds and at the warm reception the Holy Father receives. It’s no different this time. He said Mass earlier today at the Shrine of Mariazell, located in the mountains. The heavy rain was pelting down, but still there were more than 30,000 pilgrims gathered to welcome him on the occasion of the 850th anniversary of the shrine.
His message was clear but demanding. He spoke of the need for faith. He reminded them of the precious nature of life from the very moment of conception. He didn’t soft-pedal a single thing, and still the crowds couldn’t get enough. Many of them had travelled for more than a day to reach the shrine. They were coming by bus and by train, by car and by foot. But they came. And they’re continuing to come together. Wherever he heads, the crowds are there, listening and praying, singing and cheering.
Not bad, for an old man with an out-dated message in a country which we are told has abandoned the faith. You’d think the media would have learned by now.