In his first trip since last year, the Pope holds mass in Venice’s St. Mark’s.

Pope Francis presided over mass in St. Mark’s Square in Venice on Sunday, warning of environmental devastation and overtourism, in a closely watched visit that was the elderly pontiff’s first outside Rome since last year.

The 87-year-old head of the world’s 1.3 billion Catholics has been unable to travel in recent months due to his frail health, with his most recent journey to Marseille, France, in September.

However, under brilliant skies on Sunday, the pope was in good spirits as he addressed over 10,000 faithful sat in the massive St. Mark’s Square, following an earlier visit to a women’s jail and an address to young Venetians.

Francis cited Venice’s “enchanting beauty” while listing the various problems it faces, including climate change, mass tourism, and “frayed social relations, individualism, and loneliness”.

“Venice is one with the waterways on which it rests. In his sermon, the pope stated that if the natural environment is not cared for and protected, it may cease to exist.

“Similarly, our life is also immersed forever in the springs of God’s love,” he went on to say.

He went on to say that Venice, “which has always been a place of encounter and cultural exchange, is called to be a sign of beauty available to all, starting with the last, a sign of fraternity and care for our common home.”

The pope’s visit coincided with the implementation of a new five-euro ($5.35) admission fee for day-trippers in Venice, with the goal of reducing tourism strain on the UNESCO World Heritage site.

Francis identified “the difficulty of creating an environment that is fit for human beings through adequate tourism management” as one of Venice’s primary challenges, alongside “climate change and the fragility of constructions, cultural heritage, but also of people.”

Tourists were not allowed to enter the square during the pope liturgy, which required a ticket to attend.

Suffering and Rebirth.
Earlier on Sunday, Francis arrived by helicopter on the island of Giudecca, which has a women’s jail.

Greeting each of the about 80 inmates, as well as officials and volunteers, individually, the pope encouraged the women to rebuild their lives “brick upon brick, together, with determination” during their time in prison, while urging administrators to provide reintegration programs.

Prison is a hard reality, and issues such as overcrowding, a lack of facilities and resources, and incidents of violence cause a tremendous lot of misery,” he stated, sitting in front of the inmates.

“But it can also become a place of moral and material rebirth,” he went on to say.

The pope also viewed the prison’s art exhibition, which examines the convicts’ everyday lives through the work of ten different artists and serves as the Vatican’s entry for this year’s Biennale festival of art.

It was the first time a pope had attended the famous festival, which began last weekend.
Francis also spoke to young people outside the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute, which he reached by speed boat from the Grand Canal’s opening.

He pushed students to become involved in the world, despite the fact that everyone was “on their own with their cell phone, glued to social media and video games”.

You must fearlessly go against the current: take life into your own hands, become involved, turn off the TV and open the Gospel, put down your cell phone and interact with others!” He said.

Last December, a bout of bronchitis caused the pope to abandon a trip to Dubai, where he was scheduled to attend UN climate negotiations.
He also cancelled an Easter engagement in March at the last minute after suffering from what the Vatican described as “light flu” for many weeks.

Asia trip
Francis’ visit, which will end in the early afternoon, is the fourth papal visit to Venice, following Paul VI in 1972, Jean-Paul II in 1985, and Benedict XVI in 2011.

The diocese of Venice is one of Italy’s largest, with 125 parishes and close links to the Vatican. Three patriarchs of Venice became popes in the twentieth century.

Francis, who uses a wheelchair, has had a series of health issues in recent years, ranging from knee trouble to hernia and colon operations.

Despite his health, the Vatican is planned a 12-day journey to Asia in September, including Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, East Timor, and Singapore.

Prior to that, the pope will visit the Italian cities of Verona and Trieste in May and July, respectively.


0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x