The Holy Father has again confounded the skeptics, attracting very large crowds on his trip to Sicily over the weekend.

CNA reports:

Contrary to preliminary reports from Sicily on Sunday, the crowds attending papal events in the island’s capital city were “never before seen in Italy.” According to an official from Holy See’s Press Office who was on the ground at the event, this is just the latest occurrence in a continuous “crescendo” of “miracle” turnouts for Pope Benedict XVI.

Some might argue that this isn’t so surprising given that Sicily and most of southern Italy are probably the most Catholic parts of the country. Still, the turnout was impressive for what is a moderately small Mediterranean island, and after all the sufferings of the Church this year. The warmth the Pope received was also unmistakeable, according to the article.

But as the Pope made clear on his trip to Britain last month, numbers are all well and good, but they’re not the goal. What matters to him most, and what’s most probably the key to the success of his visits, is his commitment to directing believers and non-believers not to himself, but to Christ.

As he said last week when discussing his upcoming visit to Barcelona and Santiago de Compostela:

“I will personally make a pilgrimage soon to the tomb of the Apostle Saint James, the “Lord’s friend”, in the same way that I have made my way to other places in the world which many of the faithful visit: with fervent devotion,” he said.

“In this regard, from the beginning of my pontificate, I have wanted to live my ministry as the Successor of Peter with the sentiments of a pilgrim who travels over the roads of the world with hope and simplicity, bringing on his lips and in his heart the saving message of the Risen Christ, and strengthening his brothers in faith.”