[Pope's greeting to students in St. Peter's Basilica]
[In English, he said]
I offer a cordial welcome to all of you who have come to Rome from various countries and universities to celebrate Holy Week together, and to take part in the International UNIV Congress. In this way, you will be able to benefit from moments of common prayer, cultural enrichment and a helpful exchange of the experiences gained from your association with the centres and activities of Christian formation sponsored by the Prelature of Opus Dei in your respective cities and nations.
[In Spanish, he said]
You know that with a serious personal commitment, inspired by the Gospel values, it is possible to respond adequately to the great questions of our time.
The Christian knows that there is an inseparable link between the truth, ethics and responsibility. Every authentic cultural expression contributes to form the conscience and encourage the person to better himself with the end of bettering society. In this way one feels responsible before the truth, at the service of which one must put one's own personal liberty.
This certainly has to do with a mission requiring commitment, and to fulfill it the Christian is called to follow Jesus, cultivating an intense friendship with him through prayer and contemplation.
To be friends of Christ, and to give testimony of him wherever we are, demands, furthermore, the strength to go against the grain, remembering the words of the Lord: You are in the world but not of the world (cf. John 15:19)
Do not be afraid, then, to be nonconformists when it is necessary; at your university, school and in all places.
[In Italian, he said]
Dear young people of UNIV, be leaven of hope in the world that desires to meet Jesus, often without knowing it. To better the world, make an effort above all to change yourselves through an intense sacramental life, especially through approaching the sacrament of penance, and participating assiduously in the celebration of the Eucharist.
I commend each one of you and your families to Mary, who never stopped contemplating the face of her son Jesus. I invoke over each one of you the protection of Saint Josemaría and of all the saints of your lands, while I heartily wish you a happy Easter.
[Catechesis in Paul VI Hall]
Dear brothers and sisters
We have reached the eve of the Easter triduum. The next three days are commonly known as 'holy' because they allow us to relive the event central to our Redemption. They lead us to the nucleus of Christian faith: the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. These three days could be considered one single day. They make up the heart and are the key to both the liturgical year and the life of the Church. At the end of Lent we also enter that climate which Christ himself experienced back then in Jerusalem.
We want to rekindle in ourselves the living memory of the suffering which our Lord endured for us and to joyously prepare ourselves for next Sunday “the true Passover, which the Blood of Christ has covered with glory, the Passover on which the Church celebrates the Feast that is the origin of all feasts” as stated in the preface for Easter in the Ambrosian rite.
Tomorrow, Holy Thursday, the Church remembers the Last Supper during which our Lord, on the eve of his own passion and death, institutes the sacrament of the Eucharist and that of ministerial priesthood. On that same evening, Jesus gave us a new commandment, mandatum novum, the commandment of brotherly love.
Tomorrow morning, before entering the Easter triduum, but very closely tied to it, the Messa Crismale will take place in every diocese during which the bishop and priests of the diocese renew their promises made at ordination.
Also, the oils used to celebrate the sacraments are blessed: the oil for the catechumen, the oil for the sick and the holy chrism. It is one of the most important moments in the life of every Christian diocese, which, gathered around it's pastor, strengthens it's unity and faith in Christ, the supreme and eternal priest.
In the evening during the Cena Domini Mass, we remember the Last Supper when Christ gave himself to all of us as the food of salvation, as the drug of immortality and the mystery of the Eucharist -- source and pinnacle of Christian life.
Through this sacrament of salvation the Lord offered and realized for all those who believe in him, the most intimate union possible between our lives and his. With the humble and most expressive gesture of washing someone's feet, we are reminded how much Christ did for his Apostles.
Washing their feet was a concrete way of exclaiming the primacy of his love, a love that serves even to the point of giving oneself, anticipating as well the supreme sacrifice of giving his life, which he was to do the following day on Calvary. According to a beautiful tradition, the faithful close on Holy Thursday for a vigil of prayer and Eucharistic adoration enabling them to relive the agonies that Christ suffered at Gethsemane more vividly.
On Good Friday we remember the passion, crucifixion and death of Christ. On this day the Church does not celebrate mass, but the Christian community gathers to consider the mystery of sin and evil that oppress humanity. They revisit, in the light of the word of God, the sufferings of Christ that atone for this evil.
After they have listened to the retelling of the passion of Christ, the congregation prays for all the necessities of the Church and of the world, they pay homage to the cross and take the consecrated bread and wine kept from the Cena Domini mass of the previous day.
By way of further invitation to consider the passion and death of the Redeemer, to express their love and to enable the faithful to participate in the suffering of Christ, Christian tradition has created popular processions and holy representations which aim to impress ever more deeply on the souls of the faithful a sense of having truly participated in the redemptive sacrifice of Christ.
The Via Crucis stands out among these. Over the years it has been enriched with many spiritual and artistic expressions linked to the sensitivities of the various cultures.
In many countries, sanctuaries with the name “Calvary” have been born which are accessible after a steep climb. In recalling the painful climb of the passion, it allows the faithful to participate in Jesus' climb toward the mount of the Cross, the mount of love offered right up to the end.
Holy Saturday is marked by a deep silence. The Churches are left undecorated and there are no particular liturgies set aside for this day. While waiting for the Resurrection, the faithful persevere in the wait with Mary by praying and meditating. A day of silence is necessary to ponder the reality of human life, the forces of evil and the enormous power of good unleashed by the passion and resurrection of Christ.
Great importance is given during this time to participation in the sacrament of reconciliation, indispensable for the purification of the heart and to prepare for the celebration of Easter completely renewed. We need to undertake this inner purification and renewal of ourselves at least once a year.
This Saturday of silence, of meditation, of forgiveness, of reconciliation leads into the Easter Vigil, which introduces the most important Sunday in history, the Sunday that marks the Passover of Christ.
The Church holds vigil next to the newly blessed fire and meditates on the great promise contained in the Old and New Testaments, of the conclusive liberation from the ancient slavery to sin and death. In the darkness of the night, the Easter candle is lit from the new fire as a symbol of Christ who rises again in glory.
Christ, the light of humanity, dispels any shadows in the heart and the spirit and illuminates all men who come into the world. Together with the lighting of the Easter candle, the great Easter announcement reverberates throughout the Church: Christ has truly risen, death no longer has any power over him. With his death he defeats evil forever and makes man a gift of God's own life.
It is tradition that Christ's followers received the sacrament of baptism during the Easter Vigil. This was to underline the participation of Christians in the mystery of the death and resurrection of Christ. The joy, the light and the peace of Christ spread from the shining Easter night to fill the lives of the faithful in every Christian community and reaches into every area of space and time.
Dear brothers and sisters, during these special days let us guide our lives definitively toward a complete and decisive adherence to the designs of our celestial Father; let us renew our “yes” to the divine will as Jesus did with his sacrifice on the cross. The rites suggested for Holy Thursday and Good Friday, the rich silence of prayer of Holy Saturday and the solemn Easter vigil provide us with the opportunity to deepen the feelings and the values of our Christian vocation unleashed by the Paschal mystery and to strengthen it by faithfully following Christ in all circumstances, just as he did, even to the point of giving up our own existence to him.
Remembering the mysteries of Christ also means a willing and complete adherence to the history of today, convinced that when we celebrate, it is reality. Let us include in our prayers the terrible facts and situations that afflict our brothers across the world. We know that hate, division and violence never have the last word in historical events. These holy days reawaken a great hope in us: Christ was crucified, yet he rose again and conquered the world.
Love is stronger than hate, it has triumphed and we should affiliate ourselves with this victory of love. We should therefore start again from Christ and work together with him for a world founded on peace, justice and love.
In this commitment that involves all of us, let us allow ourselves to be guided by Mary, who accompanied her divine son on the road to his passion and cross, and who participated with the strength of her faith in the realization of his plan of salvation.
With these thoughts I send you my best wishes for a happy and holy Easter to you, your loved ones and your communities.
[Translation by Giustina Montaque]
[After his address, the Holy Father greeted the pilgrims in various languages. In English, he said:]
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
The Easter Triduum, which the Church now prepares to celebrate, invites us to share in the mystery of Christ’s suffering, death and resurrection. These days are the heart of the liturgical year. On Holy Thursday the Church recalls the Last Supper. At the Chrism Mass, the Bishop and his priests renew their priestly promises and the sacramental oils are blessed. The Mass of the Lord’s Supper commemorates Jesus’ institution of the sacrament of his Body and Blood and his commandment that we should love one another. On Good Friday, we ponder the mystery of sin as we listen to the account of the Lord’s passion and venerate the wood of his Cross. Holy Saturday, a day of silence and prayer, prepares for the joy of the Easter Vigil, when the light of Christ dispels all darkness, and the saving power of his Paschal Mystery is communicated in the sacrament of Baptism.
May our sharing in these solemn celebrations deepen our conversion to Christ, particularly through the sacrament of Reconciliation, and our communion, in the hope of the resurrection, with all our suffering brothers and sisters throughout the world.
I offer a cordial welcome to the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at today’s Audience, especially the pilgrims from Ireland, Canada and the United States. Upon you and your families I cordially invoke an abundance of joy and peace in the Lord!
[After his greetings, the Holy Father made the following appeal in Italian:]
I follow with deep unrest the news that in these days is coming from Tibet. My fatherly heart feels sadness and sorrow at the suffering of so many people. The mystery of the passion and death of Jesus, that we live again in this Holy Week, helps us to be particularly sensitive to their situation.
With violence, problems are not solved, only aggravated. I invite you to unite yourselves to my prayer, asking God all-powerful, source of light, to enlighten the minds of all and give to each one the courage to choose the path of dialogue and tolerance.
© Copyright 2008 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana
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