Pope Benedict XVI on Saturday greeted circus performers taking part in a pilgrimage of the "World of Itinerant Performers", promoted by the Vatican's Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples.
Thousands of circus performers, fairground workers, puppeteers, acrobats, street performers, musical band members, mechanical musicians, folk groups and pavement artists gathered in the Vatican's Paul VI Hall where the Pope spoke after watching an acrobatic display.
"Your crafts require sacrifices, responsibility and perseverance, courage and generosity; virtues today's society does not always appreciate, but which have contributed to shaping entire generations within your great family," he said.
The Pope said he hoped that local authorities would support circuses by granting them the necessary permissions to put on performances.
Above: The Pope, a well known cat-lover, extends a hand to a lion cub during Saturday's audience. Photo: CNS/Paul Haring