Pope explains Christian nonviolence and sends New Year greetings to Chinese
Vatican City (AsiaNews) – “Turning the other cheek” does not mean giving in to evil but reacting to evil with good, just as “loving one’s enemies” means putting “more” love in a world marked by too much violence and too much injustice. The foundation of Christian nonviolence, which is not a strategy but a personal way of being, was the theme tackled by Benedict XVI today to 50,000 people in St Peter’s Square for the recital of the Angelus despite the morning cold and occasional outbursts of rain.
In his greeting to the faithful, the pope also had something to say about China, confirming the country to be one of the matters occupying his mind. After reciting the Marian prayer, as he recalled that “in various countries of the East the Lunar New Year is being celebrated with joy and in the intimacy of the family”, Benedict XVI sent “to all those great peoples” best wishes of “serenity and prosperity”.
China and its neighbouring countries celebrating the New Year – the biggest feast of the whole year – were not the only places far from Rome that the Pope referred to. Benedict XVI said he was close to the hardships facing the people of Guinea and also mentioned the Polish clergy. Talking about Guinea, he said: “The bishops of that nation expressed to me their apprehension about the situation of social paralysis with general strikes and violent reactions, which has claimed many victims. In calling for respect for human and civil rights, I assure of my prayers so that the common good and recourse to the way of dialogue may lead to overcoming of the crisis.” As for Poland, the pope greeted believers from that country and implicitly referred to difficulties facing some members of the clergy due to accusations of collaboration with the Communist regime. The pope said that “as per an initiative of the bishops, this coming Ash Wednesday in Poland will be a day of ‘prayer and penitence for all the Polish clergy’. May the prayer for the holiness of priests fill all the faithful with a spirit of forgiveness, reconciliation and mutual trust.”
Before the Marian prayer, Benedict XVI talked about “one of the most typical and strongest excerpts of the preaching of Jesus. ‘Love your enemies’ (Lk 6:27).” He asked: “But what is the meaning of these words of his? Why does Jesus ask us to love our enemies, that is, a love that surpasses human capacity? In reality, the suggestion of Christ is realistic because it takes into account that there is too much violence, too much injustice in the world and therefore the situation cannot be overcome unless it is countered by more love and more goodness. This ‘more’ comes from God: it is his mercy, which became flesh in Jesus and alone can ‘turn the balance’ of the world away from evil towards good, starting from that small and decisive ‘world’ that is the heart of man.”
The pope continued: “This gospel page is rightly considered to be the magna carta of Christian nonviolence, which consists not of giving in to evil – according to a false interpretation of ‘turning the other cheek’ (cfr Lk 6:29) – but in responding to evil with good (cfr Rm 12: 17-21), thus breaking the chains of injustice. Then it is understood that for Christians, nonviolence is not merely tactical behaviour but rather a personal way of being, the attitude of one who is so convinced of the love and strength of God that he is not afraid to face evil armed with just the weapons of love and truth. Loving one’s enemy constitutes the nucleus of the ‘Christian revolution’, a revolution based not on strategies of economic, political or mediating power. The revolution of love, a love that ultimately does not depend on human resources but is a gift of God that is obtained by trusting uniquely and without reservations in his merciful goodness. This is the news of the Gospel, which changes the world without making any noise about it. This is the heroism of the ‘little ones’ who believe in the love of God and spread it even at the cost of their life”.
Benedict XVI ended by recalling that Lent will start on Wednesday with the ritual of the Ashes, which he himself will go to celebrate in the Roman basilica of Santa Sabina. He said that Lent “is the opportune time in which all Christians are invited to convert ever more deeply to the love of Christ.”