Pope: Italy, Europe need hope now

AP News
Posted: Dec 08, 2011 11:00 AM
Pope: Italy, Europe need hope now

Italy, Europe and many other places in the world need hope in these difficult times, Pope Benedict XVI said Thursday, greeting holiday shoppers and others at the foot of the Spanish Steps.

The pope was keeping up a holiday tradition to pray near a statue of the Virgin Mary in a square near Rome's poshest shopping area. The annual appointment kicks off Rome's holiday gift-buying season.

A few thousand Romans and tourists turned out to hear him speak, many of them interrupting their own shopping on the official Dec. 8 national holiday.

Benedict urged faithful should pray to Mary for encouragement to lead a Christian life as well as to be supported by hope.

"We need it, above all, in this moment so difficult for Italy, for Europe and various other places in the world," Benedict said in a brief speech before praying silently as he stood on a carpet laid across the cobblestones. "May Mary help us to see that there is light beyond this blanket of fog that seems to be wrapped around reality."

He appeared to be referring to the financial crisis gripping much of the West.

Wearing a crimson, fur-trimmed cape despite the mild weather, the 84-year-old pontiff traveled in his popemobile through the narrow streets near the square.