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Papal preacher: Victory belongs to one who triumphs over self, not others

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Jesus came to the world not just to teach, but to radically change human hearts that have hardened from sin, the preacher of the papal household said during a service commemorating Christ’s death on the cross.

“A heart of stone is a heart that is closed to God’s will and to the suffering of brothers and sisters,” but God, through the son, offers the world “a heart of flesh,” Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa said in the homily.

Pope Francis venerates the crucifix as he leads the Good Friday service in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican April 14. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis venerates the crucifix as he leads the Good Friday service in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican April 14. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis presided over the Good Friday Liturgy of the Lord’s Passion April 14 in St. Peter’s Basilica, which began with a silent procession down the central nave under dim lighting to emphasize the solemnity of the ceremony.

The pope then lay prostrate on the floor before the main altar of the basilica, his head resting upon his clasped hands on a red pillow, in silent prayer, in a sign of adoration and penance. As is customary, the papal household’s preacher gave the homily.

Father Cantalamessa said the motto of the Carthusian monks, “Stat crux dum volvitur orbis” (The cross is steady while the world is turning), represents Christ and his cross standing firm, not against the world, which is always in flux, “but for the world, to give meaning to all the suffering that has been, that is and that will be in human history.”

Jesus came not to condemn sinners, who “are creatures of God and preserve their dignity,” but to admonish the sin, which is the “result of one’s passions and of the ‘devil’s envy,’” he said.

Today’s world seems especially “fluid,” he continued, with no fixed moorings, no undisputed values, where “everything is in flux, even the distinction between sexes.”

The cross standing in and over the world as represented in the monks’ coat of arms, he said, is the “mainmast that holds the boat afloat in the undulation of the world” and marks the “definitive and irreversible ‘no’ of God to violence, injustice, hate, lies — to all that we call ‘evil,’ and at the same it is equally the irreversible ‘yes’ to love, truth, and goodness.”

No one should ever give up hope, he said, because “the cross is the living proclamation that the final victory does not belong to the one who triumphs over others but to the one who triumphs over self; not to the one who causes suffering but to the one who is suffering.”

Father Cantalamessa said, “Christ did not come to explain things, but to change human beings,” who each possess some varying degree of “a heart of darkness,” a heart hardened by sin.

The Bible calls it a heart of stone, he said, which is the heart of those who ignore God’s will and others’ pain; it is someone, for example, who “accumulates unlimited sums of money and remains indifferent to the desperation of the person who does not have a glass of water to give to his or her own child; it is also the heart of someone who lets himself or herself be completely dominated by the instincts of the flesh and is ready to kill or to lead a double life.”

It is also the heart of the church’s ministers and practicing Christians who “still live fundamentally ‘for ourselves’ and not ‘for the Lord,’” he said.

When Christ died, the earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs were opened. These signs also indicate, the papal preacher said, “what should happen in the heart of a person who reads and meditates on the Passion of Christ.”

Quoting St. Leo the Great, the preacher said people’s earthly nature should tremble at the suffering of the savior, “the rocks — the hearts of unbelievers — should burst asunder. The dead, imprisoned in the tombs of their mortality, should come forth, the massive stones now ripped apart.”

The heart of flesh God promised “is now present in the world” and in receiving the Eucharist, “we firmly believe his very heart comes to beat inside of us as well.”

He asked the assembly to gaze upon the cross and implore, like the tax collector in the temple, “God, be merciful to me a sinner!” so “we too, like he did, will return home ‘justified, that is, reconciled with God, and if it’s necessary, with our cross.’”

After the homily, the assembly venerated the cross, which was carried down the central nave and held before the pope, who kissed and caressed it.

Follow Glatz on Twitter: @CarolGlatz.

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Amid security concerns, pope leads solemn Good Friday liturgy

March 28th, 2016 Posted in Vatican News Tags: , , , ,

By

Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Entering in silence and lying prostrate on the floor in front of the main altar of St. Peter’s Basilica, Pope Francis commemorated Jesus’ death on the cross.

Thousands of people joined the pope as he presided over the Liturgy of the Lord’s Passion March 25.

Pope Francis presides at the Way of the Cross outside the ancient Colosseum in Rome March 25. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) See POPE-GOOD-FRIDAY March 25, 2016.

Pope Francis presides at the Way of the Cross outside the ancient Colosseum in Rome March 25. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

The solemn liturgy proceeded with the notable presence of security personnel and Italian police in and around the basilica amid concerns following the recent terrorist attack in Brussels.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, denied a report by Italian journalist Luigi Bisignani, who said that for the first time since the papacy of Pius IX, Italian special forces were in Vatican City State protecting the pope.

Father Lombardi said that while there is “a daily fruitful cooperation between the Vatican Gendarmerie and the Italian police organizations,” Bisignani’s report “has no foundation.”

“The Easter celebrations presided by the Holy Father will take place as planned, taking care to ensure their safe conduct and a peaceful participation by the faithful,” he said.

The pope began the Good Friday service processing down the central nave of the basilica and, in a sign of adoration and penance, lay face down in front of the altar.

As is customary, the homily was delivered by the preacher of the papal household, Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa. Pope Francis was scheduled to speak briefly later that night at the end of the Stations of the Cross in Rome’s Colosseum.

In his homily, Father Cantalamessa said the Jubilee Year offers Christians an opportunity to see the true merciful face of God, who is often perceived as “one who intervenes with divine punishment to re-establish the order disrupted by evil.”

“The Year of Mercy is a golden opportunity to restore the true image of the biblical God who not only has mercy, but is mercy,” he said.

God’s love and mercy, he continued, do not change because of the sins of men and women, but make a “qualitative leap” from being a gift to becoming an act of forgiveness.

However, he explained, God’s justice is also often misinterpreted and, although there will come a time when each person faces his or her due, St. Paul speaks of another event “occurring now” that was revealed to humanity through Christ.

“God shows his righteousness and justice by having mercy. This is the great revelation,” he said.

“Therefore, to say ‘the righteousness of God has been manifested’ is like saying that God’s goodness, his love, his mercy, has been revealed. God’s justice not only does not contradict his mercy, but consists precisely in mercy,” he said.

Father Cantalamessa said that the time has come for Christians to realize that vengeance, not justice, is the opposite of mercy.

Referring to the terrorist attack in Brussels, Father Cantalamessa said such hate and brutality help to understand Christ’s words on the cross: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

“No matter how far the hate of human beings can go, the love of God always has been, and will be, greater,” he said. “In these current circumstances, Paul’s exhortation is addressed to us: ‘Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.’”

Vengeance, which is often perceived in movies and video games “as the victory of a good hero,” must be demythologized, the preacher said. Most of the world’s suffering, whether in personal relationships or between nations, comes from a desire for revenge, he said.

“There is only one thing that can truly save the world: mercy. The mercy of God for human beings and the mercy of human beings for each other. In particular, it can save the most precious and most fragile thing in the world at this time: marriage and the family,” he said

Leading the faithful in prayer, Father Cantalamessa prayed that God “remove any desire for vengeance from the hearts of individuals, families and nations and make us fall in love with mercy.”

 

Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

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Pope Francis leads thousands in prayer at Rome’s Via Crucis

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Catholic News Service

ROME — Seated atop a hillside overlooking Rome’s Colosseum, Pope Francis presided over the nighttime Way of the Cross, joining thousands of people gathered in prayer.

The solemn torch-lit service April 18 gave powerful voice to the many social and spiritual problems facing the world and to the redeeming power of Christ’s sacrifice for humanity.

Thousands gather outside the Colosseum in Rome April 18 for a nighttime Way of the Cross. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

By passing a bare wooden cross from one group of people to the next in succession, those chosen to lead the Way of the Cross acted as visible representatives of the often-hidden injustices still wounding the world.

Two children held the cross as a reflection was read about the plight of sexually abused minors, and two inmates carried the cross during a reflection on the anguish of imprisonment and torture.

As he did last year, Pope Francis remained on the hillside terrace in silent reflection and prayer as thousands of people, many holding candles, attended the ceremony, which was broadcast by more than 50 television networks around the world.

While he offered a very brief impromptu reflection last year at the end of the ceremony, the pope was not scheduled to speak this year.

Each year, the pope chooses a different person or group of people to write the series of prayers and reflections that are read aloud for each of the 14 stations, which commemorate Christ’s condemnation, his carrying the cross to Golgotha, his crucifixion and his burial.

This year the pope picked Italian Archbishop Giancarlo Maria Bregantini of Campobasso-Boiano, a former factory worker, longtime prison chaplain, champion of the unemployed and fiercely outspoken critic of the Italian mafia.

In the meditations, the archbishop, who belongs to Congregation of the Sacred Stigmata, looked at how the wounds and suffering of Christ are found in the wounds and suffering of one’s neighbors, family, children and world.

For the second station, Jesus takes up his cross, the archbishop criticized the global economic crisis’ grave consequences, like job insecurity, unemployment, suicide among owners of failing businesses and corruption.

A laborer and a business leader carried the cross, “which weighs upon the world of labor, the injustice shouldered by workers,” said the reflection, which was followed by a call for people to respect political life and resolve problems together.

For the fourth station, Jesus meets his mother, two former addicts carried the cross as people meditated on the tears mothers shed for their children sent off to war, dying of cancer from toxic wastelands or lost in “the abyss of drugs or alcohol, especially on Saturday nights.”

For the fifth station, Jesus is helped by Simon of Cyrene to carry his cross, two people living on the street carried the cross as a reflection was read about “finding God in everyone” and sharing “our bread and labor” with others.

For the eighth station, Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem, two women carried the cross, as the meditation deplored domestic violence, “Let us weep for those men who vent on women all their pent-up violence” and to weep for women who are “enslaved by fear and exploitation.”

But compassion is not enough, the archbishop wrote: “Jesus demands more.” Follow his example of offering reassurance and support “so that our children may grow in dignity and hope.”

The archbishop’s meditations had equally strong words about the sexual abuse of children and its cover-up.

Two children carried the cross for the 10th station, Jesus is stripped of his garments, as the reflection crafted an image of the utter humiliation of Jesus being stripped naked, “covered only by the blood which flowed from his gaping wounds.”

“In Jesus, innocent, stripped and tortured, we see the outraged dignity of all the innocent, especially the little ones,” the meditation said.

A family held the cross for a reflection on the need for kindness and shared suffering; two older people carried the cross during a reflection on how age and infirmity can become “a great school of wisdom, an encounter with God who is ever patient.”

Two Franciscan friars from the Holy Land carried the cross during a meditation on Christ emerging from the fear of death as a sign how forgiveness “renews, heals, transforms and comforts” and ends wars.

 

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Pope leads Good Friday observance

By

Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Uncovering the cross and genuflecting before it in his stocking feet, Pope Benedict XVI celebrated the Liturgy of the Lord’s Passion in St. Peter’s Basilica.

The pope presided at the service April 6 and chanted the solemn prayers of intercession for the church, for himself and for the world, but during the homily he sat and listened.

Following tradition, the homily was delivered by the preacher of the papal household, Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa.

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Cuba makes this Good Friday a holiday

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican spokesman praised Cuba’s decision to accept Pope Benedict XVI’s request to make Good Friday a national holiday this year.

“It is certainly a very positive sign,” Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, said April 1.

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