The numbers speak. Benedict XVI is the most popular pope in history, if by people one understands those whom he draws like a magnet to St. Peter’s Square each Sunday for the Angelus and each Wednesday for the general audience, from Rome and from all over the world.
Attendance is routinely more than twice that seen by his predecessor, John Paul II, who in his turn had shattered all the records. But the most amazing thing is the relationship between the demand and what is on offer. The winning product that Benedict XVI offers to the crowds is made of nothing but his plain words.
At the Angelus, two times out of three pope Joseph Ratzinger explains the Gospel of that Sunday’s Mass to an audience that includes people who don’t go to church every week – and some who don’t go at all. He explains this with simple words, but these demand and receive attention. There is an impressive silence in St. Peter’s Square when he is speaking. And at the end of the very short homily, he immediately begins the Angelus prayer, without even a momentary pause. This is his effective means of preventing an outbreak of applause. This does happen, but at the end of the entire ceremony, at the moment of the greetings in the various languages...
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