Pope Benedict XVI has celebrated an open-air Mass for a million followers, capping three days of activities in Milan, Italy, aimed at showing support for the family.
Fitting his theme of strengthening the institution, the Pope recalled last night his own childhood in Germany in 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 last 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."
Benedict recalled lots of singing in his childhood home in Bavaria, not far from Salzburg, and of long walks in the woods.
"In a word, we were one heart and one soul, with many shared experiences, even if the times were difficult," the pontiff said.
Families from places as far-flung as Greece, Madagascar and Brazil shared their personal challenges in balancing work and family life and sought advice from the pontiff.
In his homily today, the Pope said the focus on making money undermines the family by creating an unjust society in which people focus primarily on their own selfish concerns.
Such thinking, he said, "creates ferocious competition, strong inequalities, degradation of the environment" and reduces family relationships "to fragile convergences of individual interests".
The Pope also remembered those who live in quake-stricken Emilia-Romagna, where 24 people died in two tremors more than a week apart last month. The pope today pledged 500,000 euro (£404,600) to families in severe need in the quake zone, which will be distributed through bishops in five diocese.
The Pope's three-day visit was viewed as a welcome respite from an embarrassing and damaging leaks scandal at the Vatican that has led to the arrest of the his personal butler.
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