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Postcards from Vatican City

While Peter Purpura was a seminarian studying for the Diocese of Brooklyn, NY in Rome, Italy, he shared the richness of his experiences in these first-hand accounts. Peter was ordained in June 2007.



Benedict XVI the Teacher

by Peter Purpura


Pope Benedict XVI greets the faithful during his Wednesday audience.
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Pope Benedict XVI greets the faithful during his Wednesday audience.

It is hard to believe that a few years have passed since the pictures of Rome and the Vatican filled our television screens, dominated the Internet, and made newspaper headlines. That April was affectionately called by some "Papal April," as we watched the death of John Paul II and the election and first days of Pope Benedict XVI's ministry. Since then many people have asked me about what is happening in Rome. They say that they never hear about Benedict in the news as they once heard about John Paul. That may be true for many of you who are living outside of Rome, but I can assure you that the people here in Rome are singing a different tune. The locals are amazed as record crowds continue to visit St. Peter's to pray at the tomb of John Paul and to attend the papal events of Benedict.

Pope Benedict XVI gives blessing at the end of the audience.
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Pope Benedict XVI gives blessing at the end of the audience.

The Pope holds two public events each week. The first is held on Wednesday when he has a public audience in St. Peter's Square where he addresses visitors in as many as seven different languages and delivers a brief teaching on some aspect of the faith. The second event is at noon on Sundays when he leads the praying of the Angelus from his apartment overlooking St. Peter's Square and once again welcomes visitors in various languages (The Angelus is traditionally prayed at twelve noon everyday. It consists of three short responses remembering Mary's role in the birth of Jesus and three Hail Marys). Approximately 30,000 attend every Wednesday audience and as many as 50,000 visit the square for the Sunday Angelus. One reporter recently said that people came to see John Paul, but now they are coming to listen to Benedict.

The portrait of the Pope Benedict XVI which hangs in our refectory.
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The portrait of the Pope Benedict XVI which hangs in our refectory.

After listening to many of Benedict's homilies and reading about his meetings with different groups, I think we could fairly call him "Benedict the Teacher." He has a beautiful way of presenting the faith so that everyone can understand, and I think this quality will be his lasting image. Over the last year he has even answered questions at various events from people such as First Communion students, teenage groups, the priests of Rome, and many others. His strong desire for people to come to know Christ personally has made a great impression at these events.

Pope Benedict XVI's desire to be a teacher became even clearer for me and many of my classmates recently here in the seminary. In our dinning room we have portraits of each of the popes and with the election of Benedict XVI last year, it was time to add a new portrait to our wall. The artist hired for the job met with the Holy Father to explain what our seminary had requested and to get his input. Benedict was insistent that he did not want a mere portrait of himself. He recommended that the Emmaus scene of Jesus at table with the disciples be placed behind him in the portrait. At Emmaus the disciples came to recognize Jesus after they heard his word and through the breaking of the bread, the Eucharist. Benedict offered this as a model for us who are seeking to know Jesus more personally through our prayer and studies. In something so simple, he remains a teacher, always pointing others toward Christ and his Church.





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