Pope interrupts homily as storm drenches pilgrims

20th August 2011, Comments 0 comments

Pope Benedict XVI interrupted a homily Saturday when powerful winds and rain swept off his skullcap and drenched hundreds of thousands of pilgrims at a Madrid airbase.

An assistant tried to shelter the 84-year-old pontiff with a large white umbrella, which was shaking in the strong wind.

The 84-year-old pontiff, his white hair blown into disarray, gripped a copy of his sodden speech, the pages and his vestments flapping in the wind.

A sea of pilgrims, by some reports more than a million, tried to take shelter under large white and yellow umbrellas. Others danced in the rain and the vast majority with no shelter just got wet.

"We are going to wait for a few more minutes, counting on your prayers and see if this stops," an organiser said on the loudspeaker.

The pope was seated on a large white throne on a vast white, wave-shaped stage, protected by an umbrella and beneath a giant parasol "tree", made of interwoven golden rods.

The pilgrims are supposed to spend the night in the open air at the base, eight kilometres (five miles) southwest of Madrid.

Benedict is to celebrate the closing mass of the August 16-21 youth festival there on Sunday morning, to be broadcast on 20 giant screens and 48 speakers.

© 2011 AFP

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