At Mass on Palm Sunday 2022, Pope Francis condemned the violence of war, and called Christians to forgive their enemies, just as Christ did while he was violently nailed to the cross.
“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,” the pope said on April 10.
“We see this in the folly of war, where Christ is crucified yet another time,” the pope underlined. “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.”
“Father, forgive them for they know not what they do. Many people heard these extraordinary words, but only one person responded to them. He was a criminal, crucified next to Jesus,” the pope said in St. Peter’s Square.
For the first time in two years, since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Pope Francis celebrated a public liturgy in St. Peter’s Square. According to the Vatican gendarmes, around 65,000 people were present.
Palm Sunday 2022 marked the beginning of Holy Week and a return to the customary large public celebrations of the Triduum and Easter at the Vatican after the coronavirus.
The pope’s Palm Sunday Mass began with a large procession of deacons, priests, bishops, cardinals and lay people carrying palms into St. Peter’s Square.
The procession circled the obelisk, before the eyes of thousands of participants. Olive tree branches, palm fronds, and the large, weaved palms called “parmureli” carried by cardinals, were blessed by Pope Francis.
Unlike previous years, when Francis led the procession around the obelisk, on Sunday, the pope walked directly from a car to his chair on the altar for the blessing and the commemoration of the entrance of the Lord Jesus into Jerusalem, before the start of Mass. He also delivered the homily seated.
Also called Passion Sunday, Palm Sunday includes the reading of the Lord’s Passion from the Gospel of St. Luke.
St. Luke wrote that “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do,” were some of the last words uttered by Jesus on the cross, before his death.
Pope Francis commented on this phrase throughout his homily for Palm Sunday 2022.
“Let us reflect on the Lord’s words. When did he say them? At a very specific moment: while he was being crucified, as he felt the nails piercing his wrists and feet,” Francis said. “Let us try to imagine the excruciating pain he suffered. At that moment, amid the most searing physical pain of his Passion, Christ asked forgiveness for those who were piercing him. At times like that, we would scream out and give vent to all our anger and suffering. But Jesus said: Father, forgive them.”
The pope explained that God does the same thing for all of us. When we cause suffering to others by our actions, God suffers too, but he wants to offer us his forgiveness.
“In order to appreciate this, let us gaze upon the crucified Lord. It is from his painful wounds, from the streams of blood caused by the nails of our sinfulness that forgiveness gushes forth,” he said.
Jesus, by forgiving his enemies, demonstrated one of his most demanding commandments: that we love our enemies, Pope Francis continued.
“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,” he said. “How often we spend time looking back on those who have wronged 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.”
Pope Francis urged Catholic priests to never tire of administering God’s forgiveness in the sacrament of confession, and Catholics to never grow tired of receiving it and bearing witness to it.
“In the course of this week, let us cling to the certainty that God can forgive every sin, God forgives everything, he can bridge every distance, and turn all mourning into dancing,” he said. “The certainty that with Jesus there is always a place for everyone. That with Jesus things are never over. That with him, it is never too late. With God, we can always come back to life.”
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“Take courage,” the pope said. “Let us journey toward Easter with his forgiveness. For Christ constantly intercedes for us before the Father. Gazing upon our violent and tormented world, he never tires of repeating — as we now say with our hearts in silence — Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”