During Wednesday's audience, the Holy Father offered an overview of the many events of his Apostolic Journey to Portugal from a week earlier, highlighting his impressions and the principal messages he delivered. The Pope revisited the message of Fatima and spoke of the support he felt from his "beloved predecessor."
More than 13,000 people were in attendance in St. Peter's Square, experiencing another mild day in a string of unseasonably cool days in Rome.
As is customary, the Holy Father used today's general audience to review his just completed trip to Fatima. He said that the "almost palpable" presence of the Virgin Mary is present there and that there is "an atmosphere of authentic mysticism" that characterizes the city.
Pope Benedict called the Mass at the Fatima Shrine on May 13 with 500,000 people the culmination of the visit.
Explaining his invitation at Mass for the faithful to "rejoice fully in the Lord" and His merciful love, Pope Benedict said that it is in these words from the Book of Isaiah that we find the "demanding" message of hope, responsibility and consolation of Our Lady of Fatima.
"It's a message centered on prayer, on penance and conversion, that is projected beyond the threats, dangers and horrors of history, inviting mankind to trust in the action of God, to cultivate great hope, to experience the grace of the Lord so as to fall in love with Him, source of all love and peace."
In retrospect, for Benedict XVI, the entire pilgrimage was "a touching experience, rich with so many spiritual gifts."
He said, "While the images of this unforgettable trip, the warm and spontaneous welcome and the enthusiasm of the people remain fixed in my mind and heart, I give praise to the Lord because Mary, appearing to the three shepherd children, opened in the world a privileged space to find the divine mercy that heals and saves."
He also commented that for the duration of his four days in the nation he felt "spiritually sustained" by his "beloved predecessor," Venerable John Paul II.
As Benedict XVI noted during the audience, the late Pope had gone to Fatima three times during his pontificate, giving thanks to Our Lady particularly for the "'invisible hand' that freed him from death" during the assassination attempt in 1981.
In closing, the Holy Father asked for people to join him in prayer, asking that the efforts of those who work in service of the Gospel and for the "true good of man" in Portugal be blessed, and that through the intercession of Mary, the Holy Spirit may make the Apostolic Journey "fruitful."