Pope Benedict XVI urges believers never to forsake hope at open-air mass in Brno

Pope Benedict XVI, photo: CTK

Thousands of believers flocked to the Czech Republic's second largest city Brno in south Moravia on Sunday to greet Pope Benedict XVI and attend a mass he celebrated out in the open. A region with the highest concentration of believers in the largely secular Czech Republic, Brno was a key stage on the pope's visit and pilgrims came from near and far to get a glimpse of him – some arriving well before daybreak to get a good vantage point. Jan Richter attended the mass in Brno and reported on the atmosphere there in the course of the morning.

Pope Benedict XVI,  photo: CTK
“People have been coming here since well before daybreak. And there were several thousand people camping overnight on the airstrip near Brno. It is now a beautiful sunny Sunday morning and the welcome that Pope Benedict XVI received when he arrived here shortly after 10 am was much warmer than the one he got in Prague on Saturday where there were only a few thousand people present. The number of people here could exceed 120,000 - 130,000. I talked to many of the pilgrims here before the mass began and there are people from Slovakia, Poland, Austria, Germany and some other countries, but of course most of them are from the Czech Republic and particularly from Moravia. You see lots of Moravian flags flying which is a very unusual sight, people dressed in folk costumes, the atmosphere is very warm and very spiritual which is something Pope Benedict really stressed.”

This is the highlight of the pope’s three-day visit. What was the pope’s main message to believers? “The pope’s sermon –which ended just a few minutes ago – revolved around one word and one concept – and that was hope. He said there will always be hope in God and God’s word and that history had often shown us that whenever people pushed God out of their horizons and everyday lives it had negative, absurd consequences. The character of the pope’s three-day visit to the Czech Republic is pastoral – aimed at bringing people closer to the Catholic Church, fomenting the faith of Catholics and bringing people who are looking for more spirituality in their lives closer to the church. It is of course doubtful whether one visit can change that but I have been asking people here what they think of this and they believe that the pope will show the way, lead the way and bring people to the Catholic community.”

Clearly this is a big day for Brno –and I understand that people who have come to see him there intend to follow in his footsteps and stay close to him for as long as possible – where is the pope heading for next?

The Palladium of the Czech Nation,  photo: Maria Hammerich-Maier
“Well, the pope is actually not visiting the city of Brno as such. He landed on the airstrip – I can see his plane right now – and after the mass is over he will board his plane again and fly back to Prague. On Sunday afternoon he is meeting with the academic world, he is going to talk to students and professors and scholars at the Vladislav Hall of Prague Castle. And experienced pope-watchers believe that that will be where the Pope will deliver an intellectual message to the nation.”