Pope greets clowns, acrobats as circus comes to town

The Associated Press

VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI has greeted clowns, acrobats, street performers and a lion cub as the circus came to town.

Benedict clapped and watched amused Saturday as circus performers flipped, flopped, juggled and twisted in front of 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.

A big top tent and carousel were mounted in St. Peter's Square to make the scene complete Saturday, and thousands of entertainers from a dozen countries filled a Vatican audience hall for the papal performance.

Vatican officials have said the audience was designed to draw attention to the problems itinerant entertainers face, living in the margins of society and constantly travelling, unable to belong to parish churches.