Vatican City, Feb 13, 2013 / 04:05 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Given the number of people that inevitably swarmed to the Holy Father’s last public Mass, Benedictine Abbot Nokter Wolf understands why his monastery did not host the Pope.
“This is the last public concelebration of Benedict XVI before he leaves the pontificate. So that’s the reason which is given, and I understand that well,” said Abbott Wolf in a Feb. 12 interview with CNA.
Pope Benedict celebrated Ash Wednesday Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica at 5:00 p.m. on Feb. 13, the first day of the Lenten season.
The basilica was filled to capacity as thousands flooded into the church to see the Holy Father, who announced just days ago that he will step down at the end of the month due to declining strength.
The venue had been changed, as the pontiff had previously been scheduled to preside over the traditional Lenten Stations of the Cross at Sant’ Anselmo church, followed by a procession to Santa Sabina Basilica on Rome’s Aventine Hill.
Traditionally, the procession is composed of cardinals, archbishops, bishops, the Benedictine monks of Sant’ Anselmo, the Dominican friars of Santa Sabina and lay people.
As the Pope, cardinals, bishops and faithful make their way between the two churches they sing the litany of the saints, which is based off of the full version of the Kyrie.
When they arrive at Santa Sabina, the Pope celebrates Mass, receives ashes and places them on the foreheads of the congregation.
“This would have been an incredible amount of people, and the Aventine is not made for that,” he said, referring to the narrow streets and small quarters.
“So it’s far better that he does it at St. Peter’s.”
According to Abbott Wolf, the traditional procession was started by Pope John XXIII when he came to the Church of Sant’ Anselmo in 1961 for the opening of the Pontifical Liturgical Institute.