04/08/2009, 00.00

Pope to travel to Abruzzi as soon as possible to meet quake victims

Papal visit will come soon but not right away. In today’s general audience address Benedict XVI talked about the rituals of Holy Week, which “for us Christians is the most important moment of the year” and which “enables us to immerse ourselves in the central events of Redemption.”
Vatican City (AsiaNews) – “As soon as possible” Benedict XVI will visit earthquake hit region of the Abruzzi. The Pope himself made the announcement, reiterating his “spiritual closeness” to the victims before he greeted the Italians who had come for today’s general audience.

“My dearest, I hope to be able to come to see you as soon as possible. You should know that the Pope is praying for everyone, pleading with the Lord to have mercy for the dead, their families and survivors and give them the maternal comfort of Mary and the benefit of Christian hope,” he said. “Once more I wish to tell such dear people that the Pope shares their pain and concerns,” he added.

The promptness with which the authorities, police, volunteers and others have come to the rescue of these brothers and sisters of ours show how important solidarity in overcoming together such a painful trial.

Fr Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican Press Office, said that the papal visit “will take place very soon but not right away. A date has not been set yet.”

The Pope had already expressed his sympathy for the pain of the victims and of the entire nation on the morning of the quake.

Led by a structural engineer an eight-member Vatican firefighting team has joined the other rescue crews.

On this day of spring before the greetings, Benedict XVI in his address to the 25,000 people who came for the general audience in St Peter’s Square spoke about the rituals of the Holy Week, which begins tomorrow with Lord’s Supper and is an opportunity “to immerse oneself ever so deeply into the Paschal mystery.”

“Holy Week, which for us Christians is the most important moment of the year, enables us to immerse ourselves in the central events of Redemption.” Starting tomorrow “the solemn rituals of the holy Triduum will allow us to remember the passion, death and resurrection of the Lord.”

“The hymn in Saint Paul’s Letter to the Philippians,” Benedict XVI said, “retraces the mystery of salvation by looking at Adam’s haughtiness who, although he was not God, wanted to be like God, and Jesus’ humility, who even though he was the son of God, humiliated himself till the death and resurrection, whereupon he was elevated to true glory. [. . .] At the name of Jesus every knee, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, should bend.”

“How marvellous and yet surprising this mystery is. Even though he was in the form of God, Jesus did not want to make his divine prerogatives an instrument of triumph. Rather he emptied himself, taking on the humble condition of man. [. . .] The form of God hid in Christ in the form of man, carrying the signs of suffering, poverty and death.”

“The true and radical sharing of our nature, in everything except sin, led him to death; not because of blind randomness but by free choice, by generous agreement with the salvific plan of the Father. He chose death on the cross, the most humiliating death anyone can imagine. [. . .] choosing our condition, that of each man and each woman, out of love.”

The Paschal Triduum will refer to all this, “tomorrow, starting with the evocative rituals of Holy Thursday, with the prelude to the chrismal Mass,” during which the oil of the catechumens and the sick will be blessed and the chrism will be consecrated.”

Priests will renew their vows during this ritual, which is “something of great value when men of the cloth renew their fidelity to Christ who chose them as his ministers,” in an event that will unofficially mark the start of the Priestly Year, which the Pope called to mark the 150th anniversary of the death of Saint Jean-Marie Baptiste Vianney (aka le Saint Curé d'Ars, the priest saint of Ars) which falls next 19 June.

Also tomorrow an afternoon Mass will commemorate the institution of the Eucharist and “the new commandment of charity Jesus left his disciples”. On Holy Thursday people will in fact be invited to give thanks to God for this supreme gift. “This is why the Church encourages vigils in the presence of the Most Holy Sacrament” so that everyone can remembers “Jesus’ lonely hour in the Gethsemane.”

On Good Friday, “as we join Jesus’ pain on the cross, we come to realise the meaning of the following words: ‘this is blood of the Covenant,’ shed for the many.”

”As was for the Eucharist when we are faced with the Passion, the mystery becomes impenetrable to our reason” since “God not only becomes man, but dies, burdened by men’s sins” in a world “where the earth is still soaked in the blood of hatred and violence.”

“The passion, wrote Blaise Pascal, continues,” and “Jesus will suffer till the end of times.”

Good Friday is a “very propitious day to strengthen our faith and our hope as well as our courage to carry the cross.” And such “hope is nurtured by waiting for Holy Saturday, before the coming of the Resurrection.”

Naked, the Church waits, like Mary praying, sharing the pain and confidence in an “orant atmosphere, favourable to meditation, reconciliation and contemplation that will accompany us” till the “vigil of vigils,” Holy Saturday, when “the victory of light over darkness and life over death will be proclaimed once again amid Paschal joy.”

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