Benedict XVI to Visit Leo XIII's Birthplace
Pontiff Remembered for Christian Social Doctrine
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VATICAN CITY, JULY 28, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI is planning to visit Carpineto Romano, the birthplace of Vincenzo Gioacchino Raffaele Luigi Pecci, who became Pope Leo XIII.
L'Osservatore Romano reported today that the Pope will make the visit on Sept. 5 to mark the bicentenary of his predecessor's birth.
The Pontiff will arrive by helicopter at 8:45 a.m. from Castel Gandolfo, where he is spending the summer.
The Holy Father will be received by Bishop Lorenzo Loppa of Anagni-Alatri, the mayor and other authorities after he lands in the local Galeotti stadium.
Benedict XVI will then celebrate Mass in Monti Lepini Square, in the center of Carpineto Romano.
He will greet some 30 persons representing the local citizens, and then return by helicopter for lunch at Castel Gandolfo.
It will be the third visit of a contemporary Pope to this small Italian town of less than 5,000 inhabitants. The first was Paul VI, who made the trip on Sept. 11, 1966, at the conclusion of the 75th anniversary of the publication of the encyclical "Rerum Novarum," which was authored by Leo XIII.
Later, on Sept. 1, 1991, John Paul II also visited Carpineto Romano to commemorate the centenary of the publication of that encyclical. He also celebrated Mass in the Monti Lepini Square.
Vincenzo Pecci was born in Carpineto Romano (at that time part of the Papal States), to a family of counts.
He was ordained a priest in 1837. In 1843, he was ordained an archbishop and sent as nuncio to Belgium. Subsequently Archbishop Pecci was named bishop of Perusa and later a cardinal.
He was elected Pope after Pius IX, in 1878.
Not only is he known for the first great Christian social encyclical, "Rerum Novarum," which has significantly marked the teaching of subsequent Popes, but he also contributed to an important opening to the scientific world and a difficult endeavor of diplomatic mediation in conflicts between countries.
Leo XIII founded centers of theological and Scriptural study, and opened the Vatican Archives to Catholic and non-Catholic researchers.
He was the first Pontiff to be recorded with a film projector, as well as the first promoter of ecumenical dialogue.
Leo XIII also became the oldest Pope, reigning until age 93, when he died July 20, 1903.
During his visit to Carpineto Romano, Paul VI explained that "two things characterized the 25 years of Leo XIII's pontificate: the first was the vigorous affirmation of personal piety, which completes liturgical worship; the other is Christian social doctrine."
The Pontiff continued, "The devotion to the Sacred Heart, recitation of the Holy Rosary, and devotion to St. Joseph are directly linked to the work and teaching of Leo XIII."
But above all, he said, what characterized the Pontiff from Carpineto Romano was the rejuvenation he gave to a Church "despoiled of her temporal supports, diminished in her prestige."
"Isolated from the world, in a climate of rupture and estrangement, of inflamed controversies, of anti-clericalism," Leo XIII gave the world "the great encyclicals on the everlasting values of liberty, of democracy and above all of the social issue," Paul VI affirmed.
He added, "The defense of the humble and the poor had never found until then such an authoritative voice."
John Paul II said, 25 years later, that "in a historical period characterized by profound cultural transformations and social tensions, sparked by the new relationship between capital and labor, Leo XIII wished to give, in such an important field, a clear formulation of the thought of the Church."
The Pontiff continued: "He did so with courage, almost defying not only the secular world, but the very conscience of the Catholic world. And with his prophetic intervention he fostered the consolidation of Christian social doctrine."