(From the AP, 12/1.)
Pope Benedict XVI greeted thousands of clowns, acrobats, puppeteers and even a pair of lion cubs on Saturday as the circus came to town for an unusual papal performance.
Benedict clapped and watched amused as circus workers flipped, flopped, juggled and twisted before him in what the Vatican has called a historic audience to make street performers and other itinerant entertainers feel like they belong to the church.
Benedict, a known cat lover, paid particular attention to a pair of lion cubs that were brought up to him, stroking them and chatting with their trainers. At one point Benedict even bent down to caress one — not an easy feat given the 85-year-old pope has trouble with his knees and occasionally uses a cane.
Benedict acknowledged the sacrifices circus workers make to bring joy to young and old alike, traveling constantly and living on the margins of society. He noted they lack schools for their children or parish churches to call home. But he urged them to keep the faith.