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The Holy Father Blessing Humble Pilgrims

( Originally Published 1907 )

Along the walls of the loggia the pilgrims are kneeling in a long line where they have been placed by the attendants. They are Hungarians, a people of the liveliest and most passionate faith in religion. They have made a long journey to see the Head of the Church and to express their devotion to him. Their peasant garments are marked with the stains of a long journey, their peasant hands bear the marks of toil. They carry packages of pious objects, such as rosaries, medals and crucifixes, which are to be blessed by the Pope and then carried to their relatives and friends at home.

It is impossible to describe the joy of these people at the sight of their Pontiff. This man in white is for them the living sum of their faith, the descendant of the long line of pontiffs from St. Peter, who received from the Lord the gift of the keys and the duty of caring for the lambs of the flock. He is fulfilling this duty now in his lavish blessings. All their lives long they will treasure his smile, his benign aspect, his words of congratulation and praise, and transmit them in oft-told description as a rich legacy to their children and grandchildren. There are ten million Catholics in Hungary, and over thirty millions in Austria and Hungary together. The Pope does not address these pilgrims in their own tongue, as he does not know the language; but as His Holiness walks down the line he utters little phrases of compliment and affection in Italian, translated by the leaders of the pilgrims. Usually these leaders are ladies of rank. Monsignore Bisleti (whom we see at the left), has witnessed these receptions thou-sands of times, and has seen the people of every race on earth, from the most civilized to the blacks of Africa, kneel before the Pontiff with such deep joy and profound tenderness that tears and sobs often accompanied the presentation. The source of this deep feeling is not in the circumstances of the audience, which are not remarkable, but in the abiding faith of the pilgrims, who recognize the Pope as the Vicar of Christ on earth, holding the keys of the kingdom in his powerful hands.

Our next position is in another loggia at the side of the Court of San Damaso, through which the Pope is just returning to his apartments. The number 25 on the map gives the place where we are to stand.

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