MILAN — Pope Benedict XVI celebrated an open-air Mass for 1 million cheering faithful Sunday, capping a weekend visit to Milan viewed as a respite from a Vatican scandal, but fresh leaks of Holy See documents have only fueled the intrigue.
If the new leaks are authentic, the development could indicate that the recent arrest of the pope's butler might not have stemmed the scandal as top Holy See officials had hoped.
The three-day visit to Milan during a weekend of Catholic events meant to boost support for families was also an opportunity for the 85-year-old pontiff to show he is still firmly at the helm of his church. On Sunday, Benedict announced that he hoped to go to Philadelphia in 2015 for a similar pro-family event.
`'I send my warm greetings to Archbishop Charles Chaput and to the Catholics of that great city, and look forward to meeting them there along with numerous families from all around the world," Benedict said.
Vatican officials said despite his looking forward to the event, it was far too early to confirm his attendance. Since becoming pope, Benedict has attended a world families meeting in Valencia, Spain, but skipped one in Mexico. His calendar is usually confirmed a few months in advance.
In his homily, the pope said the focus on making money undermines families by creating an unjust society. Such thinking, he said, `'creates ferocious competition, strong inequalities, degradation of the environment" and reduces family relationships `'to fragile convergences of individual interests."
Meeting with some families at a rally late Saturday night, the pope recalled his own childhood, which he likened to his vision of "heaven" – a house filled with music, big Sunday lunches and shared liturgical readings to strengthen the family faith.
`'To tell the truth," the pope said, responding to a question about his youth from a young Vietnamese girl during a meeting with families Saturday night, `'if I try to imagine a little how it will be in heaven, it seems to be the time of my youth, of my childhood."
The pope also remembered those who live in quake-stricken Emilia-Romagna, a northern region where 24 died in two temblors just over a week apart last month. On Sunday he pledged (EURO)500,000 ($616,000) to families in severe need in the quake zone.
His three-day stay in Milan, which included taking in a concert of Beethoven's Ninth at La Scala, had been viewed as a welcome break from the so-called "Vatileaks" scandal. Benedict appeared relaxed and at ease throughout the visit.
But the leaks continued even during his trip, with the daily La Repubblica publishing documents Sunday it said it received despite the butler's arrest.
One of the letters was a high prelate's complaint that he had not been consulted on the approval of a liturgy for a Catholic group in Spain, while two others reportedly bear the signature of the pope's secretary.
Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi said he was neither surprised nor concerned by the documents' release. He declined comment on the contents.
`'We don't expect that the documents published so far are the last, and I wouldn't be surprised if more are published in the coming days," he told reporters.
"It is clear that whoever is working with the quantity of documents is playing with them, and the strategy is not to release them all at once and let us be in peace."