Pope Benedict XVI celebrates mass in Brno

Celebrating an open-air mass attended by a crowd of 120,000 in Brno, Pope Benedict XVI warned that scientific and economic progress were not enough to guarantee the moral welfare of society. Preaching in the largely secular Czech Republic, the pontiff said people needed to be liberated from material oppressions, but more profoundly, they needed to be saved from the evils that afflict the spirit. During Sunday’s mass the pope consecrated crosses and statues while hundreds of priests distributed hosts among believers.

On Monday Pope Benedict will celebrate mass in the town of Stará Boleslav, north of Prague, the centre of annual celebrations held in honour of St. Wenceslas, the patron saint of the Czech nation, who was murdered in the town on September 28, 935.

The Pope’s three-day visit to the Czech Republic is a pastoral one intended to bring a message of faith and hope to Czechs 20 years after the fall of communism. The controversial issue of property restitution was discussed only marginally. Following a meeting with Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone on Saturday, the Czech Prime Minister Jan Fischer said the Vatican was ready to defer property disputes with the Czech state for the time being in view of the economic crisis.