Over 120,000 members of Church movements will be in Rome this weekend to celebrate the Year of Faith and the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council.
Among those scheduled to speak at a welcoming ceremony in St. Peter's Square on Saturday, the vigil of Pentecost, will be Dr. Paul Bhatti, brother of Shahbaz Bhatti, Pakistan’s former Catholic minister for minorities who was gunned down by Islamic extremists in 2011.
Shahbaz Bhatti was very close to the Sant’Egidio lay community, one of the largest movements to be created after the Second Vatican Council.
A month after his death, Paul came to Rome with Shahbaz’s Bible which is now on show in a side chapel dedicated to the New Martyrs in Sant’Egidio’s church of St. Bartholomew on Tiber Island in Rome. A campaign is underway to have Bhatti canonized as a martyr for the faith.
Speaking to reporters yesterday, Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, said the Vatican hopes “to create a moment of encounter, of prayer, exchange, and listening” at the weekend’s events that would give strength and motivation to the new evangelization.
He said around 150 different ecclesial realities from all round the world are registered, “attesting to the fact that the Church's catholicity knows no boundaries.”
Under the slogan, “I Believe! Increase our Faith”, the gathering will begin with a pilgrimage for the various groups to the tomb of St. Peter throughout the morning of 18 May starting from 7:00am. Then, at 3:00pm, a welcoming ceremony with reflection, music, and testimonials will be held in St. Peter's Square.
Pope Francis will join the celebration with a moment of prayer in front of the image of the Virgin Mary Salus Populi Romani, after which Paul Bhatti will speak, along with Irish writer and editorialist John Waters, who will talk about how he rediscovered the faith after years of darkness. Representatives of the movements will then ask the Holy Father some questions, to which the Pope will give unscripted answers.
The Vatican said that among those present will also be a large number of people with various disabilities, the parents of a child killed in the earthquake in L'Aquila, Italy, and Italian politicians belonging to the Communion and Liberation movement.
The event will conclude with the celebration of Mass, presided by Pope Francis, on Sunday, 19 May, at 10:00am in St. Peter's Square.
This is only the third such meeting of all the movements to take place: the previous two meetings were held by Benedict XVI in 2006 and Blessed John Paul II in 1998.