Vatican City, Mar 25, 2005 (CNA) - Cardinal Camillo Ruini, the Popes’s Vicar to the City of rome, will replace the Holy Father at leading throngs of faithful gathered at Rome's Collosium, the once site of massive Christian persecution, now the site of today's 'Way of the Cross' remembrance.
At the celebration that will take place in Rome at 9:15 p.m., Cardinal Ruini will follow the meditations made by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who was asked by the Holy Father to write today's Way of the Cross meditations.
In his reflexions, Cardinal Ratzinger calls the centuries old tradition, observed on Good Friday by faithful worldwide, "a path leading to the heart of the Eucharistic mystery: popular piety and sacramental piety of the Church blend together and become one."
This year's reflections note Jesus' words from John's Gospel that, "Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit." The cardinal unites this idea with gift of life given in the Eucharist-a gift which, he said, could only be given with Christ's death.
Likewise, the theme of humility play deeply into today's reflections. Cardinal Ratzinger noted Philippians 2:6-8, which says of Christ, "though he was in the form of God, he did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men... He humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a Cross."
Speaking on the second station, 'Jesus takes up His cross', the Cardinal reflects on the corruption of power.
"How often", he says, "are the symbols of power, borne by the great ones of this world, an affront to truth, to justice and to the dignity of man! How many times are their pomps and their lofty words nothing but grandiose lies, a parody of their solemn obligation to serve the common good."
He continues: "The price of justice in this world is suffering: Jesus, the true King, does not reign through violence, but through a love which suffers for us and with us. He takes up the Cross, our cross, the burden of being human, the burden of the world."
Drawing a connection between Jesus' three falls on the way to His crucifixion to human fallenness, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith asks, "Should we not also think of how much Christ suffers in his own Church?"
"How often", he says, "is the holy sacrament of his Presence abused, how often must he enter empty and evil hearts! How often do we celebrate only ourselves, without even realizing that he is there! How often is his Word twisted and misused! What little faith is present behind so many theories, so many empty words!"
Speaking on Vatican radio yesterday, Cardinal Ratzinger said that, "the Way of the Cross is not simply a chain of suffering, terrible events, but a mystery, the process by which the grain of wheat falls into the earth and bears fruit."
"We realize", he said, "that we can participate in the Lord's Way of the Cross because he has transformed this way of his into a way of life for us, saying: 'Whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake, will save it.'"
Finishing his reflections, the Cardinal speaks of the fourteenth station, 'Jesus is laid in the tomb.' He notes that, "From that lifeless grain of wheat comes forth the great multiplication of bread which will endure until the end of the world…Through his Cross and Resurrection, the eternal Word of God became flesh and bread for us.”
“The mystery of the Eucharist already shines forth in the burial of Jesus.”
Read the full Way of the Cross of Cardinal Ratzinger at: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/document.php?n=54
Denver, Colo., Mar 25, 2005 (CNA) - One year before, she would have kept walking. But last fall, when 22-year old Dixie Ross saw the table advertising Catholic Bible studies in the University of Colorado Student Union, something made her stop.
Raised Baptist in Louisiana, Ross will join over 2,000 others in the Archdiocese of Denver who will be received into the Catholic Church at this year's Easter Vigil Mass.
In high school, Ross told CNA, she had bad experiences which made her write off religion altogether. Then she met "a wonderful married couple in Louisiana who adopted my son."
After giving it up for adoption, she said that the couple told her that they planned to raise her baby a Catholic. "I realized", she said, that "we agreed on a lot of things, and I began thinking about becoming Catholic myself."
Once seeing the Catholic Mass as stuffy and ritualistic, Ross says that she has "tried to learn where each tradition came from, and why it is such an important part of Catholic life."
She now attends weekly Catholic Bible studies, Mass with her friends, and eagerly awaits her reception into the Church Saturday night.
According to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Ross is not alone. Over 150,000 Americans will join the Church this weekend, including young people, older people and families.
Among them, is David Reid, who won a gold medal in boxing at the 1996 Olympics. After growing up Baptist and later becoming Muslim, he will enter the Church at St. Michael's Parish in Marquette, Michigan.
The USCCB reported that numbers of people being received into the Church has jumped from last year, and include a broad spectrum of reasons.
Bishop Edward Slattery of Tulsa, Chairmen of the U.S. Bishops Committee on Evangelization, said that, "The Rite of Election is always a moving experience as new life comes into the Church."
"It is a sign", he added, "of the work of the Holy Spirit and of the witness of faith that Catholic men and women give every day. Virtually all who come into the Church note that they were drawn to the Catholic Church by a friend, relative or acquaintance who quietly lives out the Christian life. The Church is stronger because of its faithful members."
Lima, Peru, Mar 25, 2005 (CNA) - During an emotional reflection on the last seven words of Christ this Good Friday, Auxiliary Bishop Jose Antonio Eguren of Lima, Peru, offered prayers before the image of Our Lord of the Miracles—the most popular devotion in Peru—for Terri Schiavo, who has been without food or water for seven days.
“In these last few days as reported by the media, we have observed with great concern the abuse of power which has led to the condemning of a sick human being to die of starvation. This is the dramatic case of Ms. Terri Schiavo in the United States,” the bishop said.
“If I mention this case it is because unfortunately everything that happens in the developed world could one day happen in our country,” he added.
Commenting on Christ’s words, “Forgive them for they know not what they do,” Bishop Eguren pointed out that, “Because of the arbitrary decision of a judge who believes the husband, she has been withheld nourishment. In the conditions in which she finds herself, this is ‘direct euthanasia,’ that is, homicide. We condemn this homicidal decision in the strongest possible terms.”
“Lord of Miracles,” the bishop prayed, “You gave your life on the Cross so that we could have life in abundance. We pray for the life of this woman. Soften the hearts of those who are incapable of appreciating and defending the gift of life from conception to natural death. Grant us the miracle of saving the life of Terri Schiavo. Grant us the grace of having her food and water restored, those means that are not medical but rather natural for preserving life.”
Washington D.C., Mar 25, 2005 (CNA) - In the twilight of his pontificate, marked by suffering and physical weakness, Pope John Paul II is challenging the world with the message of the cross, said papal biographer George Weigel in a comment published Tuesday in the Washington Post.
Since the Pope's health took a sharp turn for the worse last month, a flurry of questions have been raised in the press and elsewhere about the future of the papacy and the possibility of the Pope resigning.
But these questions, though interesting, "miss the more compelling point," Weigel wrote.
While "the world tries to understand [the Pope] in political terms, as another power player on the global stage. … that is not who he is, or what he's about, at his deepest level," he wrote.
The Pope is "first and foremost, a Christian pastor who is going to challenge us with the message of the cross - the message of Good Friday and Easter - until the end."
The senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington commented on how contemporary Western society seeks to avoid suffering at all costs.
"Embracing suffering is a concept alien to us," he observed. "And yet suffering embraced in obedience to God's will is at the center of Christianity."
He compared the way the Pope is living his suffering with the way Jesus accepted and lived his Passion. "The Christ of the Gospels reaches out and embraces suffering as his destiny, his vocation - and is vindicated in that self-sacrifice on Easter.
"That is what John Paul II, not a stubborn old man but a thoroughly committed Christian disciple, has been doing this past month: bearing witness to the truth that suffering embraced in obedience and love can be redemptive," he wrote.
In his comment, the author of "Witness to Hope: The Biography of Pope John Paul II" shared parts of a recent conversation he had with Francis Cardinal Arinze in Rome.
According to Weigel, the Nigerian cardinal suggested that the Pope's example demonstrates that suffering can have meaning; it can teach and remind us that "we cannot control our lives, and it elicits a compassion that ennobles us."
The cardinal also suggested that the ailing pontiff is "a tremendous encouragement to the elderly, the sick, the disabled and the dying, who find strength and hope in his example," reported Weigel.
Weigel concluded by citing former Polish prime minister Hanna Suchocka, who described the 84-year-old Christian leader as someone living his way of the cross.
"It's not something the world has watched a Pope do for a very long time," Weigel wrote. "We should recognize it for what it is, and be grateful for the example."
Pinellas Park, Fla., Mar 25, 2005 (CNA) - Since last Friday, brain damaged Terri Schiavo has been without food and water following a court order at the request of her husband Michael, to have the feeding tube, which has fed and hydrated her for the last 15 years, removed.
She has been at the center of a tumultuous legal battle, which has reached all the way to congress and President Bush.
Numerous courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court have, over the past week, have refused to hear new evidence and overturn Florida Judge George Greer's February 24th decision to have the 41-year old Schiavo starved.
Hope is now growing dim as physical signs of starvation are reported to be overtaking Terri's body.
Bobby Schindler, Terri's brother, said this morning that, ""It's very frustrating. Every minute that goes by is a minute that Terri is being starved and dehydrated to death."
Seeing her, he said, was like looking at "pictures of prisoners in concentration camps."
According to attorneys and friends of Terri's family, Schiavo is showing numerous signs of dehydration flaky skin, dry tongue and lips, and sunken eyes.
Earlier this morning, hundreds gathered at an all-day prayer vigil at the Governor's Mansion in Tallahassee to beg for Florida's highest legislator to take action.
"We are here on Good Friday to ask Governor Jeb Bush to intervene to save the life of Terri Schiavo. The governor has it within his power to rescue Terri, her life is in the governor's hand," said Rev. Patrick Mahoney, Director of the Christian Defense Coalition.
Suzanne Vitadamo, Terri's sister told the Associated Press yesterday that, "We're minute by minute right now. But it doesn't look like we have much left."
Christians and religious groups nationwide have been banding together, praying and begging for mercy for Terri Schiavo.
Fr. Frank Pavone national Director of Priests for Life strongly criticized the courts' decission and said it was time for "a new civil desobedience."
Some African-American church leaders in particular, have been calling on their congregations to take action.
Reverend Jesse Lee Peterson, a prominent African American minister issued a statement saying, "Like most Americans I have been following the Terri Schiavo case watching the legal battle and emotional drama between Terri's parents and her husband Michael Schiavo."
"During this process", he said, "Terri's fight has become a rallying point for most Conservative Christians with the exception of blacks. Nearly all the people fighting and protesting to keep Terri alive are white! Where are the prominent black ministers?"
He noted, "We don't see them because they're looking at this as a race issue, rather than as a moral one. Blacks, especially Christians, should stop looking at this issue through the prism of race. The battle is between people who are for life versus those who favor death."
Vatican City, Mar 25, 2005 (CNA) - During the celebration of the Lord's Passion, the Preacher of the Papal Household, Father Raniero Cantalamessa recalled that the Eucharist, fruit of the Lord's Passion, is the only hope for a world that mocks God.
The solemn commemoration of Good Friday was led by Cardinal J. Francis Stafford at the Basilica of St. Peter. After the reading of the Passion, Father Cantalamessa delivered an moving homily inspired by the Church's traditional Eucharistic prayers.
"Good Friday of the year 2005, the year of the Eucharist! What light is shed on both these mysteries when we think of the two together! And yet a question arises. If the Eucharist is 'the memorial of the Passion', why is it that the Church abstains from celebrating it precisely on Good Friday? For we are now gathered to take part, not in a Mass, but rather in a liturgy of the Passion in which we will receive the body of Christ consecrated yesterday," Father Cantalamessa began.
"The fact that we do not celebrate the Eucharist today does not weaken, but rather strengthens, the bond between Good Friday and the Eucharist. The Eucharist is to the death of Christ as the sound and the voice are to the word they carry through the space into the ear of the listeners."
Father Cantalamessa referred to the traditional Latin hymn, "Adoro te devote" and said "It is not possible to find a better way to bring to light the link between the Eucharist and the cross. Written in the thirteenth century as an accompaniment to the elevation of the Host at Mass, it serves us today equally well as our salutation of Christ raised up on the cross."
"The Eucharist is the way Jesus invented to remain forever Emmanuel, God-with-us," he continued. "This presence is a guarantee, not only for the Church, but for the entire world. 'God is on our side', that is, on the side of humankind, our friend and ally against the powers of evil. God alone personifies the kingdom of good against the kingdom of evil. We need to bear witness to this hope that is in us, rising up against the gloomy wind of pessimism blowing through our society."
"Faith gives us the assurance that, whatever may happen, it will not be the total and final end. God did not reconcile the world to himself only to abandon it to nothingness; he did not promise to remain with us to the end of the world only to go, alone, back to his heaven when that end comes," Father Cantalamessa noted.
"The Eucharist is the sacrament of non-violence! Thanks to the Eucharist, God's absolute 'no' to violence, spoken on the cross, echoes alive down the centuries. And, at the same time, it is God's 'yes' to the innocent victims, and it is the place where all the blood spilled on earth joins with the blood of Christ and cries out to God and 'pleads more insistently than Abel's'.
"But Christ's meekness is no justification for the violence that is done today to his person, and in fact renders it the queerer, the more odious. This is not just a question of the pressure to remove the cross from public places and the crib from Christmas folklore. In an unending stream of novels films and plays, writers manipulate the figure of Christ under cover of imaginary and non-existent new documents and discoveries. This is becoming a fashion, a literary genre."
"It is trading on the vast resonance of the name of Christ and on all that he means to a large part of humankind, to achieve wide publicity at very little cost, or to shock with advertisements which exploit Gospel symbols and images, as the one of the Last Supper. This is literary parasitism!"
"Yet if in some extreme cases believers react and phone to protest about these things, some people are scandalised and decry it as intolerance and censorship. Intolerance has changed sides in our day, at least in the West: where we used to have religious intolerance, we now have intolerance of religion!"
"We could perhaps appeal to these people of our time, not only for our own sake but for theirs as well," concluded Father Cantalamessa, "saying what Tertullian said to gnostics of his time who denied the humanity of Christ: 'Parce unicae spei totius orbis': Do not destroy the only hope of the world”.
Vatican City, Mar 25, 2005 (CNA) - At the beginning of the traditional Good Friday Way of the Cross,
Cardinal Camillo Ruini, Vicar for the Diocese of Rome, read an emotional message from Pope John Paul II in which the Pope, who continues to recover from his throat surgery, notes: "Brother and Sisters, I am with you spiritually at the Coliseum, a place that evokes so many memories and emotions in me, to carry out the evocative rite of the Stations of the Cross this Good Friday evening."
"I unite myself with you in the meaningful invocation 'Adoramus te, Christe, et
benedicimus tibi, quia per sanctam crucem tuam redemisti mundum' (We adore you Oh Christ and we praise you, because by your Holy Cross you have redeemed the world). Yes, we adore and bless the mystery of the Cross of the Son of God, because precisely from that death a new hope for humanity has arisen."
"The adoration of the Cross refers us to a commitment we cannot ignore: the
mission expressed by St. Paul with the words: 'I fill up in my flesh what is
lacking in the sufferings of Christ, for the good of his body which is the
Church'. I, too, offer my sufferings, that the will of God be fulfilled and His
word spread among the people. I also feel close to those who, in this moment,
are being tried by suffering. I pray for each one of them."
"On this day in which we remember Christ crucified, I gaze upon and adore the
Cross with you and I repeat the words of the liturgy: 'O crux, ave spes unica!'
Hail, oh Cross, our only hope, give us patience and courage and attain peace for the world!"
"With these sentiments, I bless you and all those who participate in this Way of
the Cross through radio or television."