Content of Pope's Lenten spiritual exercises revealed

Pope Benedict XVI in Poland 2006. Credit: Mazur.
Pope Benedict XVI in Poland 2006. Credit: Mazur.

.- The Vatican revealed details of the meditations being preached to Pope Benedict XVI during his weeklong Lenten retreat led by Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya of Kinshasa in the Congo.

“To live in truth,” the cardinal told the Pope, “is is to live according to the Beatitudes. It means repudiating the lies of our words and actions. It means rejecting the hypocrisy which impels us to appear other than as we are.”

In a Vatican communiqué released on March 2, the Cardinal said this is as true for the Church collectively as it is for each individual “so that the truth of Christ's Gospel may be known and lived.”

Since Sunday evening, Cardinal Pasinya has been leading the Pope and the Roman Curia in three meditations a day interspersed with praying the Divine Office and Eucharistic Adoration. As a result, all private and public Papal engagements were canceled this week including Wednesday’s General Audience.

The theme for the week has been “the communion of Christians with God,” with Cardinal Pasinya reflecting upon God as light, truth, mercy and loving guide, before turning to consider love of the world, lack of faith in Christ and the sin of priests.

He began, however, with “the sign of the cross” saying that it was much more than habit but an “act whereby we add the splendor of knowledge and the dynamism of freedom to our every action.” It is a sign which means “sacrifice for love. It is death for resurrection.”

In his mediation upon God as “the way, truth and life,” Cardinal Pasinya said that despite many of the horrors of the modern world – including war, genocide and abortion – we must never been indifferent “to repression and man’s exploitation of man.”

“Even if the mystery of sin is beyond us,” he said “we must walk in the light” or “in other words, we must choose to abandon sin.”

Understanding God as truth is particularly important for people “who have no awareness of their own sins, for people who have lost the sense of sin because they no longer pose themselves the problem of God.” 

It is also important for those who no longer possess moral criteria and confuse good with evil, he said, adding that this was a tendency related to “religious indifference which affirms that all religious are alike but which, in reality, is seeking a lax morality.”

He cautioned the gathering of clerics that this phenomena can also affect priests “in the measure to which spiritual barrenness leads them into the same defects,” and when “Priestly ministry thus becomes mere functionality and has no true sense of God.”

The Cardinal then warned priests against putting themselves into occasions where sin is more likely stating that “Our generosity does not protect us from sin. We must be prudent, and not recklessly expose ourselves to the possibility of falling.”

And he offered the response of the penitent St. Peter following his betrayal of Jesus as a model of how a priest should react upon falling into sin.

“In all situations, whatever happens, the Lord is always at our side. The biggest affront we can show him is to doubt in his mercy, as Judas did.”

The retreat in the Vatican’s Redemptoris Mater Chapel concludes tomorrow, Saturday March 3.

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