Pope Benedict XVI began his visit to Milan for the 7th World Meeting of Families by challenging the northern Italian city to create a future built upon the Christian family.
“Faith in Jesus Christ, who died and rose for us, who is living among us, must animate the entire fabric of your life, personal and communal, private and public, so as to enable a stable and authentic 'well-being' beginning with the family,” he told enthusiastic crowds in Milan’s Piazza del Duomo next to the city’s cathedral.
Over the next three days, the Pope will meet with hundreds of thousands of pilgrims from over 150 countries who have gathered to pray, celebrate and study marriage and family life.
The theme this year’s event is “The Family: Work and Celebration.” The Pope described the family as “humanity’s principal patrimony, coefficient and sign of a true and stable culture in favor of man.”
Noting the location of his first public event in Milan, Pope Benedict praised the city’s cathedral that “with its forest of spires” invites citizens “to look upwards to God.”
“This very momentum towards the heavens has always characterized Milan and allowed the city over the years to respond fruitfully to its mission: to be a crossroads – Mediolanum – of peoples and cultures.”
The Pope charted the religious history of the city from the great 4th century bishop St. Ambrose to the 16th century’s St. Charles Borromeo, who pursed a “wide-ranging, tenacious and rigorous application of the Tridentine reforms.”
He also noted modern day figures such as St. Gianna Beretta Molla, who sacrificed her life for her unborn daughter, and “made beauty and joy, faith, hope and charity shine.”
“It is now up to you, heirs of a glorious past and a spiritual heritage of inestimable value, to commit to transmitting to future generations the torch of such a shining tradition,” challenged the Pope.
“You well know the urgent need to merge the Gospel leaven into the current cultural context.”
He concluded his comments by entrusting the people of Milan to the protection of the Virgin Mary “who from the highest spire of the cathedral holds maternally vigil day and night on this city.”
The Pope then traveled onto the world-famous Scala Theatre for a concert held in his honor. Beethoven’s Symphony no. 9 was performed by the theater's orchestra and chorus under the baton of Daniel Barenboim.