04/10/2022, 14.42
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Pope calls for Easter truce in Ukraine as a step towards peace

The pontiff makes an appeal at the end of the Palm Sunday Mass in St Peter's Square. Christ is once again crucified by “soldiers sent to kill their brothers and sisters”. He wonders “what victory is there in planting a flag on a pile of rubble?” and urges the whole Church not to tire of administering, receiving and witnessing “God's forgiveness”.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis started Holy Week with an appeal at the end of Palm Sunday Mass to stop the madness of war, where Christ is once again crucified by “soldiers sent to kill their brothers and sisters”.

Speaking to about 50,000 faithful allowed once again in St Peter's Square after the pandemic, the pontiff called for a truce to stop the war in Ukraine during Easter, “not to provide more weapons” but to start real negotiations in which the parties are willing to make some sacrifices "for the good of the people".

The pontiff used the words addressed by the angel to the Virgin in the new appeal for peace he made before the Angelus prayer.

“Nothing is impossible for God. He can even bring an end to a war whose end is not in sight, a war that daily places before our eyes heinous massacres and atrocious cruelty committed against defenseless civilians.”

“We are in the days preceding Easter. We are preparing to celebrate the victory of the Lord Jesus Christ over sin and death – over sin and death – not over someone and against someone else. But today, there is a war. Because there is something to be won this way, according to the way of the world? This is only the way to lose. Why not allow Him to win? Christ bore his cross to free us from the dominion of evil. He died so that life, love, peace might reign.

“Let the weapons be put down! Let the Easter truce begin. But not to provide more weapons and pick up the combat again – no! – a truce that will lead to peace, through real negotiation that is even disposed to some sacrifice for the good of the people. In fact, what victory is there in planting a flag on a pile of rubble?”

Earlier, because of an aching knee, Pope Francis waited in the churchyard of the basilica for the Palm Sunday procession, which commemorates Jesus’s entry in Jerusalem.

In his homily, commenting on the Passion story according to Luke, in today’s liturgy, the pontiff said that on Calvary “The mantra ‘save yourself’ collides with the words of the Saviour who offers his self.” Instead, “Against this self-centred mindset is God’s way of thinking.”

Jesus highlights the difference from saving oneself when he said: “Father, forgive them”. On the cross, at the most painful moment, “Jesus did not rebuke his executioners or threaten punishments in the name of God; rather, he prayed for the evildoers. Fastened to the gibbet of humiliation, his attitude of giving became that of forgiving.”

At the most difficult moment, he experienced the commandment of loving his enemies. “Let us think about someone who, in our own lives, injured, offended or disappointed us; someone who made us angry, who did not understand us or who set a bad example.  How often we spend time looking back on those who have wronged us! 

“How often we think back and lick the wounds that other people, life itself and history have inflicted on us. Today, Jesus teaches us not to remain there, but to react, to break the vicious circle of evil and sorrow. To react to the nails in our lives with love, to the buffets of hatred with the embrace of forgiveness.”

The Gospel notes that Jesus “kept saying” words of forgiveness. “He did not say it once for all as he was being nailed to the cross; instead, he spent all his time on the cross with these words on his lips and in his heart. God never tires of forgiving. [. . .] Let us never grow tired of proclaiming God’s forgiveness: we priests, of administering it”.

Lastly, Jesus explains the reason for forgiving: “for they know not what they do. [. . .] Those who crucified him had premeditated his killing, organized his arrest [. . .]. Yet Christ justifies those violent men by saying: they know not. That is how Jesus acts in our regard: he makes himself our advocate.”

Speaking about “the ignorance of the heart, which all of us have as sinners”, Francis notes that “When we resort to violence, we show that we no longer know anything about God, who is our Father, or even about others, who are our brothers and sisters.  We lose sight of why we are in the world and even end up committing senseless acts of cruelty. We see this in the folly of war, where Christ is crucified yet another time. 

“Christ is once more nailed to the Cross in mothers who mourn the unjust death of husbands and sons. He is crucified in refugees who flee from bombs with children in their arms. He is crucified in the elderly left alone to die; in young people deprived of a future; in soldiers sent to kill their brothers and sisters.”

Forgiveness is the unheard-of message that many hear in the Passion, but only one person welcomes it: an evildoer, crucified next to Jesus.

“The good thief accepted God as his life was ending, and in this way, his life began anew. In the hell of this world, he saw heaven opening up: ‘Today you will be with me in Paradise’.”

“With God, we can always come back to life.  Take courage! Let us journey toward Easter with his forgiveness. For Christ constantly intercedes for us before the Father (cf. Heb 7:25). Gazing upon our violent and tormented world, he never tires of repeating: Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”

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