In an interview with Vatican Radio on Saturday Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi reviewed the highlights and important messages from the week's Apostolic Trip to Portugal. He noted the vitality of the Church in the country, calling it a sign of hope for the future.
The Apostolic Trip took place from May 12-14, taking the Holy Father first to the Portuguese capital of Lisbon, then on pilgrimage to Fatima and finally to the coastal city of Porto.
The outcome of the trip was "certainly positive," according to Fr. Lombardi's evaluation. He added, "I would even say superior to the expectation."
The Vatican spokesman noted a highlight of the "marvelous trip" in the warm and vast welcome of the people of Portugal, which surpassed the organizer's predictions, he said, and left the Pope himself "struck, very content and comforted."
He explained that Pope Benedict was able to “live this trip in the best conditions and also as a moment of great spiritual experience of prayer.”
According to Fr. Lombardi, The “culminating point” of the trip was the celebration in Fatima.
During this trip were moments which echoed across Europe and the world, said the Vatican spokesman, because Fatima is “a place that has really assumed a significance for the Universal Church, as a moment of encounter and, in a certain sense, of communication between heaven and earth..."
The meeting with cultural representatives in Lisbon was also meaningful with its "total" involvement of the world of culture which, Fr. Lombardi noted, shows "the willingness of the Church to speak in a constructive way with all people who search and commit themselves to the world of thought, research, art and creativity."
He went on to review the major messages of the Pope during the four-day trip. He commented specifically on "the very intense way" the Pope spoke of love for Jesus in the homily in Fatima and also supported the Holy Father's observation that the prophetic mission of Fatima continues to be important today.
He also harkened back to the Pope's words from the flight to Portugal when he said that the Church suffers from the sins of its members.
The spokesman observed that, in this context, the message from Fatima calling us to conversion and penance is particularly important.
"This seemed truly very beautiful to me," he said, "very important ... how the Pope was able to insert the theme that afflicts us in these last months regarding the sexual abuses into a very broad spiritual perspective."
In doing so, the pontiff is "recognizing their gravity, but placing them within the condition of the Church in the world."
Fr. Lombardi closed the interview by recalling the vitality he witnessed in the Portuguese Church which he called "a great sign of hope for the Church that walks (ahead)."