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On trip to Pavia, Pope underlines respect for life April 23, 2007

Pope Benedict XVI traveled to northern Italy on April 21 for a 2-day pastoral trip that included visits to Vigevano and Pavia.

The visit was Pope Benedict's first trip outside Rome in 2007, and his 4th trip within Italy since his election in April 2005. Vigevano is the only diocese in Lombardy that Pope John Paul II never visited during his 26-year pontificate. The late Pontiff did visit Pavia, however, in November 1984.

Pope Benedict began his public schedule in Vigevano by driving into the city in an open car. Then, arriving at the bishop's residence, he addressed young people from the balcony, thanking them for their enthusiastic welcome. Then he presided at an outdoor Mass, concelebrated by the bishops of the region. In his homily the Pope reminded bishops and priests that "the true success of our mission is entirely a gift of grace."

Continuing his trip with a helicopter ride to Pavia, the Pope spoke first at the city's cathedral, telling the crowd that Jesus "never disappoints our expectations, because he knows our hearts." After an overnight stay in Pavia he visited the San Matteo hospital, where he urged patients to unite their suffering to Sacrifice of Christ. Addressing doctors and scientists, the Pope said that medical progress, while always welcome, must respect "such fundamental principles as respect for and defense of life at every stage."

The Pope's weekend visit concluded with a Vespers service in Pavia's basilica of San Pietro in Ciel d'Oro, where he prayed before the relics of St. Augustine. (See today's separate CWN headline story.)

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