'Spontaneous' Masses Back Benedict

Vatican claims 150K show up in solidarity with pope
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 16, 2010 7:26 AM CDT
Masses Flood Vatican to Back Benedict
Pope Benedict XVI blesses faithful from the window of his studio overlooking St. Peter's Square, Sunday, May 16, 2010. An estimated 150,000 people filled St. Peter's Square in a major show of support.   ((AP Photo/L'Osservatore Romano))

Tens of thousands of balloon- and banner-toting faithful overflowed St. Peter's Square today in a massive show of solidarity with Pope Benedict XVI over the clerical sex abuse scandal. Benedict said he was comforted by such a "beautiful and spontaneous show of faith and solidarity"—organized by 68 Italian lay groups—and again denounced what he called the "sin" that has infected the church.

Banners hung on Bernini's colonnade encircling the piazza read "Together with the pope," and "Don't be afraid, Jesus won out over evil." Such large crowds are usually reserved for major holiday Masses and canonizations, and the crowd interrupted Benedict frequently with applause and shouts of "Benedetto!" and Benedict himself strayed from his prepared remarks to thank them again and again. (More priest sex abuse stories.)

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