Vatican City (AsiaNews) - " While we contemplate and celebrate the Holy Cross, we think emotionally of so many of our brothers and sisters who are being persecuted and killed because of their faith in Christ", this was Pope Francis reflection today before the 'Angelus prayer of, on the day when the Church celebrates the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.
Speaking to tens of thousands of pilgrims in St Peter's Square, the Pope added: "This happens especially there where religious freedom is still not guaranteed or fully realized. It happens, however, even in well-to-do countries which, in principle, protect freedom and human rights, but where in practice believers, and especially Christians, encounter restrictions and discrimination". And remembering that tomorrow we celebrate the memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows, he said: "To Her I entrust the present and the future of the Church, so that we all may always know how to discover and accept the message of love and salvation of the Cross of Christ".
Earlier, the pontiff had celebrated
Mass in the basilica for the marriage of 20 couples
in the diocese of Rome. Also on this occasion he had emphasized the value of the Cross of
Jesus, in which "God's love for
humanity was revealed most".
"The Father - explained the Pope - has "given" the Son to save us, and this has resulted in the death of Jesus and His death on the Cross. Why? Why was the Cross necessary? Because of the gravity of the evil which kept us slaves. The Cross of Jesus expresses both things: all the negative forces of evil, and all of the gentle omnipotence God's mercy. The Cross would appear to declare Christ's failure, but in reality marks His victory. On Calvary, those who mocked him said, 'If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross "(cf. Mt 27,40). But it was the opposite that was true: it was because Jesus was the Son of God, that He was there, on the Cross, faithful to the end to the loving plan of the Father. And for this reason God has "exalted" Jesus (Philippians 2.9), conferring universal kingship on Him".
continued: "So what do we see, when we look to the Cross where Jesus
was nailed? We contemplate the sign of the infinite love of God for each of us and
the source of our salvation. That Cross is the source of the mercy of God that embraces
the whole world. Through the Cross of Christ the evil one is overcome death is defeated,
we are gifted life, hope is restored. This is important: Through the Cross of
Christ hope is restored. The Cross of Jesus is our only true hope! That is why the
Church "exalts" the Holy Cross, which is why we Christians bless ourselves
with the sign of the cross. That is, we don't exalt crosses but THE glorious
Cross of Christ, a sign of God's love, our salvation and journey towards the resurrection. This is our hope. "
The Pope warned against considering the cross a sign "magic": "The Holy Cross .... is not a sign of 'magic'! Belief in the Cross of Jesus involves following Him on his path. Thus Christians collaborate in His work of salvation by accepting together with Him sacrifice, suffering, even death for the love of God and neighbor".
After the Marian prayer, Francis had words of encouragement for the UN peace mission to the Central African Republic, that begins tomorrow, in its task to "protect the civilian population, which is seriously suffering the consequences of the ongoing conflict."
"While I assure the commitment and prayer of the Catholic Church, - he added - I encourage the efforts of the international community, which is coming to the aid of the Central Africans of good will. May violence give way to dialogue, opposing factions leave aside particular interests and strive to ensure that every citizen, regardless of ethnicity or religion, can collaborate to build up the common good".
The Pope then recalled his visit yesterday to Redipuglia, where he prayed at the Austro-Hungarian cemetery and the Military Shrine for the dead of the First World War. "The numbers - he said - are shocking: 8 million young soldiers fallen and 7 million civilians killed.
This tells us that war is madness. And humanity has yet to learn the lessons from this madness! Because after this war, there was another world war and so many more still going on today. But when will we learn? When will we learn this lesson? "
" I invite everyone to look at the Crucified Christ - he concluded- to understand that hate and evil are defeated by forgiveness and good, to understand that the response of war only increases evil and death!".