On Sunday, the Holy Father was greeted by a massive amount of supporters at the Vatican for the Regina Coeli. Church prelates chalked the enormous response up to a great love of the Pope and his commitment to ridding the Catholic Church of sin.
After leading the Marian prayer from the window of his apartment above the supportive crowd, the Holy Father told the faithful that we must "be strongly rooted in God, solid in the good, in love and in service" to combat the sin within the Church and in the rest of the world.
Paola Dal Toso is the president of the national association of lay groups that organized the initiative of support for the Pope and mobilized the army that descended on the Vatican for the Sunday noon prayer. She said before the occasion that the idea of the event was to bring themselves "visibly around Benedict XVI as sons with their father, desiring to sustain him in his challenging ministry, expressing affection and gratitude to him for his passion for Christ and for all of humankind."
Speaking with Vatican Radio after a meeting with the Holy Father in audience on Monday morning, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, head of the Italian bishops said that Pope Benedict was "very content, very serene, for having seen this manifestation of such joy, closeness" in an "extremely packed" St. Peter's Square.
The prelate explained that many of the 200,000 who showed up to stand by the Holy Father were families, small and large, who had come from across the map "just to be under the Pope's window for a moment."
Cardinal Bagnasco went on to say that the great display of solidarity reinforces the awareness that the Church is of the people and particularly that there is "great affection and a great bond of gratitude" for the Pope.
The cardinal noted that for Italians, the See of Peter "represents in the heart of our people a great grace and therefore an additional reason for faith and joy." He thanked great variety of Italian Christian movements and Church groups that took part for their "vivacity" in making the occasion such a success.
He also restated the importance of prayers for the holiness of priest and the healing of abuse victims.
The head of the Italian bishops told La Repubblica newspaper in a separate interview on Sunday that this initiative was a "very simple and humble, but certainly convincing and eloquent sign" of the love of the Church and nation for the Holy Father.
L'Osservatore Romano reported that he also referred to the Pope as the "confident, sure, meek and sweet leader of the Church."
Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Pope's second-in-command, told Vatican Radio on Monday that Sunday's event demonstrated "all of the affection that surrounds the Pope."
In addition, he said, it showed the will and good intentions of Christians "to profoundly renew the heart of the Church, to do penance for the sins that are in the Church and the world and to reawaken the commitment to the clean, clear and coherent testimony with the Gospel of Christ."