Pope praises 13th-century hermit who quit papacy

SULMONA, Italy (AP) — Pope Benedict XVI traveled to a central Italian town Sunday to pay homage to Celestine V, saying the simple lifestyle of the 13th-century hermit who resigned the papacy can serve as an example for modern men and women.

Benedict praised his predecessor for his detachment from material things such as money and clothes.

“We, too, who live in an epoch of greater comfort and possibilities, are called upon to appreciate a sober lifestyle,” the pope said.

Benedict, at times wiping his forehead, conducted an open-air Mass in hot weather before thousands of faithful in one of Sulmona’s main squares.

In modern society, Benedict told them, “it seems that every space, every moment must be filled with initiatives, activities, sounds. Often there isn’t even the time to listen.”

“Let’s not fear the silence inside and outside of us,” he said.

The pope also sought to encourage those still suffering from the earthquake that struck this region in April 2009. He said he prays for those who live “in precarious conditions because of the lack of a job, uncertainty over the future, physical and moral suffering and … a sense of loss due to the quake.”

The temblor killed some 300 people and drove thousands away from their homes. Benedict had visited the region soon afterward, praying before the salvaged remains of Celestine.

Celestine V assumed the papacy in 1294 at age 85 and resigned five months later, saying he was not up to the task. He was later put under guard for fear he would become the rallying point for a schism.

Celestine died in 1296 and was declared a saint in 1313.

During his daylong visit, Benedict meets with bishops from the region and local youths before going back to the Vatican.

The ANSA news agency reported that an unauthorized man was stopped by the pope’s security guards as he was seeking to approach the stage where Benedict was celebrating Mass. The man got nowhere near the pontiff, who continued officiating undisturbed, and was quickly escorted outside the piazza, ANSA said.

On Christmas Eve, Benedict was knocked down by a woman during a Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, but the pontiff was not hurt.

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