Pope Francis' Easter Message To The City And To The World (Urbi Et Orbi) March 31, 2013

“Christ is our peace, and through him we implore peace for all the world”: Peace for the people of Syria, torn apart by bloodshed, for the Middle East and Iraq; Peace in Africa, for Mali, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic; Peace in Asia, above all on the Korean Peninsula.

In the first Urbi et Orbi message of his pontificate this Easter Sunday, Pope Francis invited people of all ages, from all walks of life to “ask the risen Jesus, who turns death into life, to change hatred into love, vengeance into forgiveness, war into peace”.

Sunday morning St Peter’s Square was transformed into an open air garden by a multitude of flowers and a mercifully warm sun after a night of storms. Despite the threat of more rain, the people came in their tens of thousands filling the square and the long boulevard that leads to Bernini’s columns to take part in Pope Francis’ first celebration of Easter Mass.

The mood was of solemn participation until the end of the celebration when the Holy Father made a brief tour of the square, and the multitude exploded in a unanimous cheer. Suddenly the flags of the world were unfurled and banners from parishes and catholic associations greeting the Pope were held on high.

The tour was brief, as the Holy Father entered the basilica to make his way to the central loggia of the hall of blessings from where he delivered his first ever message as Pope to the city of Rome and to the world.

Below is the full text of the Pope's Message:

Dear brothers and sisters in Rome and throughout the world, Happy Easter! 

What a joy it is for me to announce this message: Christ is risen! I would like it to go out to every house and every family, especially where the suffering is greatest, in hospitals, in prisons …

Most of all, I would like it to enter every heart, for it is there that God wants to sow this Good News: Jesus is risen, there is hope for you, you are no longer in the power of sin, of evil! Love has triumphed, mercy has been victorious!

We too, like the women who were Jesus’ disciples, who went to the tomb and found it empty, may wonder what this event means (cf. Lk 24:4). What does it mean that Jesus is risen? It means that the love of God is stronger than evil and death itself; it means that the love of God can transform our lives and let those desert places in our hearts bloom.

This same love for which the Son of God became man and followed the way of humility and self-giving to the very end, down to hell - to the abyss of separation from God - this same merciful love has flooded with light the dead body of Jesus and transfigured it, has made it pass into eternal life. Jesus did not return to his former life, to earthly life, but entered into the glorious life of God and he entered there with our humanity, opening us to a future of hope.

This is what Easter is: it is the exodus, the passage of human beings from slavery to sin and evil to the freedom of love and goodness. Because God is life, life alone, and his glory is the living man (cf. Irenaeus, Adversus Haereses, 4,20,5-7).

Dear brothers and sisters, Christ died and rose once for all, and for everyone, but the power of the Resurrection, this passover from slavery to evil to the freedom of goodness, must be accomplished in every age, in our concrete existence, in our everyday lives. How many deserts, even today, do human beings need to cross! Above all, the desert within, when we have no love for God or neighbour, when we fail to realize that we are guardians of all that the Creator has given us and continues to give us. God’s mercy can make even the driest land become a garden, can restore life to dry bones (cf. Ez 37:1-14).

So this is the invitation which I address to everyone: Let us accept the grace of Christ’s Resurrection! Let us be renewed by God’s mercy, let us be loved by Jesus, let us enable the power of his love to transform our lives too; and let us become agents of this mercy, channels through which God can water the earth, protect all creation and make justice and peace flourish.

And so we ask the risen Jesus, who turns death into life, to change hatred into love, vengeance into forgiveness, war into peace. Yes, Christ is our peace, and through him we implore peace for all the world.

Peace for the Middle East, and particularly between Israelis and Palestinians, who struggle to find the road of agreement, that they may willingly and courageously resume negotiations to end a conflict that has lasted all too long. Peace in Iraq, that every act of violence may end, and above all for dear Syria, for its people torn by conflict and for the many refugees who await help and comfort. How much blood has been shed! And how much suffering must there still be before a political solution to the crisis will be found?

Peace for Africa, still the scene of violent conflicts. In Mali, may unity and stability be restored; in Nigeria, where attacks sadly continue, gravely threatening the lives of many innocent people, and where great numbers of persons, including children, are held hostage by terrorist groups. Peace in the East of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and in the Central African Republic, where many have been forced to leave their homes and continue to live in fear.

Peace in Asia, above all on the Korean peninsula: may disagreements be overcome and a renewed spirit of reconciliation grow.

Peace in the whole world, still divided by greed looking for easy gain, wounded by the selfishness which threatens human life and the family, selfishness that continues in human trafficking, the most extensive form of slavery in this twenty-first century. Peace to the whole world, torn apart by violence linked to drug trafficking and by the iniquitous exploitation of natural resources! Peace to this our Earth! Made the risen Jesus bring comfort to the victims of natural disasters and make us responsible guardians of creation.

Dear brothers and sisters, to all of you who are listening to me, from Rome and from all over of the world, I address the invitation of the Psalm: “Give thanks to the Lord for he is good; for his steadfast love endures for ever. Let Israel say: ‘His steadfast love endures for ever’” (Ps 117:1-2).

Holy Gospel: Great Sunday Of The Resurrection. March 31, 2013

First Letter to the Corinthians 15:12-26. 
Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified of God that he raised Christ whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised. If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have died in Christ have perished. If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died. For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being; for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, after he has destroyed every ruler and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to
Saint Mark 16:1-8. 
When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. They had been saying to one another, ‘Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?’ When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, ‘Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.’ So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid. 

Holy Gospel: Thursday Of The Sacraments. March 28, 2013

First Letter to the Corinthians 11:23-32. 
For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be answerable for the body and blood of the Lord. Examine yourselves, and only then eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For all who eat and drink without discerning the body, eat and drink judgement against themselves. For this reason many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. But if we judged ourselves, we would not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.

Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to
Saint Luke 22:1-23. 
Now the festival of Unleavened Bread, which is called the Passover, was near. The chief priests and the scribes were looking for a way to put Jesus to death, for they were afraid of the people. Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was one of the twelve; he went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers of the temple police about how he might betray him to them. They were greatly pleased and agreed to give him money. So he consented and began to look for an opportunity to betray him to them when no crowd was present. Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. So Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, ‘Go and prepare the Passover meal for us that we may eat it.’ They asked him, ‘Where do you want us to make preparations for it?’ ‘Listen,’ he said to them, ‘when you have entered the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him into the house he enters and say to the owner of the house, "The teacher asks you, ‘Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ " He will show you a large room upstairs, already furnished. Make preparations for us there.’ So they went and found everything as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover meal. When the hour came, he took his place at the table, and the apostles with him. He said to them, ‘I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I tell you, I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.’ Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he said, ‘Take this and divide it among yourselves; for I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.’ Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. But see, the one who betrays me is with me, and his hand is on the table. For the Son of Man is going as it has been determined, but woe to that one by whom he is betrayed!’ Then they began to ask one another which one of them it could be who would do this.

Pope Francis' Weekly General Audience on Wednesday, March 27, 2013

“Holy Week is a time of grace which the Lord gifts us to open the doors of our hearts, our lives, our parishes - what a pity, so many parishes are closed! - our parishes, movements, associations, and to "step outside" towards others, to draw close to them so we can bring the light and joy of our faith”, said Pope Francis Wednesday as he held his first ever general audience in a packed and sunny St Peter’s Square.

"Always step outside yourself! And with the love and tenderness of God, with respect and patience, knowing that we put our hands, our feet, our hearts, but then it is God who guides them and makes all our actions fruitful”.

Below is a Vatican Radio translation of Pope Francis’ catechesis for his first General Audience, Wednesday March 27, 2013:

Brothers and sisters, good morning!

I am pleased to welcome you to my first general audience. With deep gratitude and veneration I am taking up the "witness" from the hands of my beloved predecessor, Benedict XVI. After Easter we will resume the catechesis on the Year of Faith. Today I would like to focus a little on Holy Week. With Palm Sunday we began this week - the center of all the liturgical year - in which we accompany Jesus in His Passion, Death and Resurrection.

But does it mean for us to live Holy Week? What does it means to follow Jesus on his way to the Cross on Calvary and the Resurrection? In his earthly mission, Jesus walked the streets of the Holy Land; he called twelve simple people to remain with Him, to share his journey and continue His mission; He chose them among the people full of faith in the promises of God. He spoke to everyone, without distinction, to the great and the lowly; to the rich young man and the poor widow, the powerful and the weak; He brought the mercy and forgiveness of God to all; he healed, comforted, understood, gave hope, He led all to the presence of God who is interested in every man and woman, like a good father and a good mother is interested in each child. God did not wait for us to go to Him, but He moved towards us, without calculation, without measures. This is how God is : He is always the first, He moves towards us. Jesus lived the daily realities of most ordinary people: He was moved by the crowd that seemed a flock without a shepherd, and He cried in front of the suffering of Martha and Mary on the death of their brother Lazarus; he called a tax collector to be His disciple and also suffered the betrayal of a friend. In Christ, God has given us the assurance that He is with us, in our midst. " Foxes - Jesus aid - have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head" (Mt 8:20). Jesus did not have a home because His house is the people, that us, His mission is to open all God’s doors, to be the loving presence of God.

In Holy Week we live the highest point of this journey, this loving plan that runs throughout the entire history of the relationship between God and humanity. Jesus enters Jerusalem to take the final step, in which His whole live is summarized: He gives himself totally, He keeps nothing for Himself, not even his life. At the Last Supper, with His friends, He shares the bread and distributes the cup "for us." The Son of God is offered to us, He consigns His Body and his Blood into our hands to be with us always, to dwell among us. And on the Mount of Olives, as in the trial before Pilate, He puts up no resistance, He gifts Himself: He is the Suffering Servant foretold by Isaiah, who stripped himself unto death (cf. Is 53:12).

Jesus does not live this love that leads to sacrifice passively or as a fatal destiny; certainly He does not hide his deep human commotion in the face of a violent death, but He entrusts Himself with full confidence to the Father. Jesus voluntarily consigned Himself to death to respond to the love of God the Father, in perfect union with His will, to demonstrate His love for us. On the cross, Jesus "loved me and gave himself for me" (Gal 2:20). Each of us can say, "He loved me and gave himself for me." Everyone can say that "for me". 

What does this mean for us? It means that this is my, your, our path. Living Holy Week following to Jesus not only with the emotions of the heart, living Holy Week following Jesus means learning how to come out of ourselves - as I said on Sunday - to reach out to others, to go to the outskirts of existence, to be the first to move towards our brothers and sisters, especially those who are most distant, those who are forgotten, those who are most in need of understanding, consolation and help. There is so much need to bring the living presence of Jesus, merciful and full of love!

Living Holy Week means increasingly entering into God's logic, the logic of the Cross, which is not first of all that of pain and death, but of love and of self-giving that brings life. It means entering into the logic of the Gospel. Following, accompanying Christ, remaining with him requires an "stepping outside" stepping outside. Stepping outside of ourselves, of a tired and routine way of living the faith, of the temptation to withdraw into pre-established patterns that end up closing our horizon to the creative action of God. God stepped outside of Himself to come among us, He pitched His tent among us to bring the mercy of God that saves and gives hope. Even if we want to follow Him and stay with Him, we must not be content to remain in the enclosure of the ninety-nine sheep, we have to "step outside", to search for the lost sheep together with Him, the one furthest away. Remember well: stepping outside of ourselves, like Jesus, like God has stepped outside of Himself in Jesus and Jesus stepped outside of Himself for.

Some might say to me, "But, Father, I have no time", "I have so many things to do", "it is difficult", "what can I do with my little strength?", with my sin, with so many things ? Often we settle for a few prayers, a distracted and inconsistent presence at Sunday Mass, a random act of charity, but we lack this courage to "step outside" to bring Christ. We are a bit like St. Peter. As soon as Jesus speaks of the Passion, Death and Resurrection, of self-giving, of love for all, the Apostle takes him aside and rebukes him. What Jesus says upsets his plans, seems unacceptable, undermines the sense of security that he had built up, his idea of ​​the Messiah. And Jesus looks at the disciples and addresses Peter with perhaps one of the strongest words of the Gospel: " Get behind me, Satan. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do"(Mk 8:33). God always thinks with mercy: do not forget this. God always thinks with mercy: our merciful Father. God thinks like a father who awaits the return of his child and goes to meet him, sees him come when he is still far away ... What does this mean? That each and every day he went out to see if his son was coming home. This is our merciful Father. It is the sign that He was waiting for him from the terrace of is house; God thinks like the Samaritan that does not approach the victim to commiserate with him, or look the other way, but rescue him without asking for anything in return, without asking if he was Jew, if it was pagan, a Samaritan, rich or poor: he does not ask anything. He does not ask these things, he asks for nothing. He goes to his aid: This is how God thinks. God thinks like the shepherd who gives his life to defend and save his sheep.

Holy Week is a time of grace which the Lord gifts us to open the doors of our hearts, our lives, our parishes - what a pity, so many parishes are closed! - in our parishes, movements, associations, and to "step outside" towards others, to draw close to them so we can bring the light and joy of our faith. Always step outside yourself! And with the love and tenderness of God, with respect and patience, knowing that we put our hands, our feet, our hearts, but then it is God who guides them and makes all our actions fruitful.

May you all live these days well following the Lord with courage, carrying within a ray of His love for all those whom we meet.

Church Of The Holy Sepulcher

The church of the holy sepulcher in Jerusalem, also called church of the resurrection, is one of the most important Christian shrines in the world. It is a large complex, comprising the actual location of the final five stations of the cross, from ten to fourteen, including the crucifixion site and the holy crypt. All churches in the world, whether orthodox or catholic, are represented inside the complex, by altars and icons.

Station eleven. Chapel of the Nailing of the Cross. It features a twelfth century mosaic of Jesus being nailed to the cross. An imposing altar and mosaic ornaments. Through a window in the south wall, the Chapel of the Agony of the Virgin can be seen. Just to the left of the altar is a statue of Mary, Our Lady of Sorrows, which is Station thirteen. Jesus' body removed from the cross and given to Mary.

A few steps lead to the Golgotha. On this elevated rock, Jesus was crucified. Station twelve. The church was built around this Calvary. A statue of the virgin Mary and many bronze and golden chandeliers overlook the main altar. The rock itself can be seen under the glass on either side of the main altar. Beneath the altar there is a hole that allows you to touch the rock itself. The slot cut for the cross is shown in the east apse along with those of the two crucified burglars.

The rounded area of the church, or the Rotunda, preserves the location and shape and a few original columns of Constantine's fourth century Church built on the site of Christ's tomb. It is surmounted by a large dome and decorated with twelve stars symbolizing the 12 apostles.

Underneath the large dome is the Tomb of Christ enshrined in a chapel which contains two small rooms. The first is the Greek Orthodox Chapel of the Angel, with an altar containing a piece of the stone, which was rolled away by angels at the Resurrection. The second is the tiny Chapel of the Holy Sepulcher, which contains the tomb of Christ. It is the fourteenth Station of the Cross. A marble slab covers the place where the body of Christ was laid and from which he rose from the dead. A vase with candles marks the spot where his head rested.

The stone of Unction, which commemorates the preparation of Jesus' body for burial. Behind the Stone, a mosaic depicting Jesus' anointing for burial, decorates the outer wall of the Greek orthodox cathedral.

Chapel of Saint Helena, mother of Constantine. A seat in the corner of the chapel is said to have been occupied by Helena as she searched for Jesus' Cross. From this corner, a few steps descend into the Chapel of the Finding of the Cross.

The mount of olives, is also an important place for pilgrimage. It is located on the hillside opposing the ancient stone walls of Jerusalem. On that hill, is the Gethsemane garden, where Jesus prayed to be delivered from the terrifying destiny awaiting him, while his three disciples fell asleep nearby. The church of all nations was built around the rock where Jesus knelt down and prayed endlessly on that night.

Outside the church, is the Gethsemane olive garden, where trees have a proven age of more than 2000 years. the apostles cave is also nearby, it is the place where the apostles hid when Jesus was taken in. On the mount of olives, there's also the church of the tear drop, recalling the place where Jesus wept over Jerusalem. Finally, the church of the ascension, built over the rock where Jesus put his last footsteps on earth, before ascending to heaven.

Meditations For The Way Of The Cross At The Colosseum By Lebanese Youth (Full Text)

Under the guidance of His Beatitude Cardinal Mar Beshara Boutros Rai,

Way Of The Cross 2013

"A man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, ‘Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’" (Mk 10:17). Jesus answered this burning question, which arises in the innermost core of our being, by walking the way of the Cross. We contemplate you, Lord, along this path which you were the first to tread, and after which "you built a bridge to death with your Cross, so that men might pass from the land of death to the land of Life" (Saint Ephraim the Syrian, Homily). The call to follow you is addressed to all, especially to the young and to those who are tried by division, wars or injustice and who fight to be signs of hope and builders of peace in the midst of their brethren. We therefore place ourselves before you with love, we present our sufferings to you, we turn our gaze and our heart to your Holy Cross, and strengthened by your promise, we pray: "Blessed be our Redeemer, who has given us life by his death. O Redeemer, realize in us the mystery of your redemption, through your passion, death and resurrection" (Maronite Liturgy).

I Station: Jesus is condemned to death
I Station: Jesus is condemned to death - Way of the Cross 2013

A Reading from the Holy Gospel according to Mark 15:12-13, 15
Pilate again said to them, "Then what shall I do with the man whom you call the King of the Jews?" And they cried out again, "Crucify him." Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released for them Barabbas; and having scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.
From Pilate, the man with power, Jesus ought to have obtained justice. Pilate did indeed have the power to recognize Jesus’ innocence and free him. But the Roman Governor preferred to serve the logic of his personal interests and he yielded to political and social pressures. He condemned an innocent man in order to please the crowd, without satisfying truth. He handed Jesus over to the torment of the Cross, knowing that he was innocent ... and then he washed his hands.

In today’s world, there are many "Pilates" who keep their hands on the levers of power and make use of them in order to serve the strongest. There are many who are weak and cowardly before the spectre of power, and mortgage their authority to the service of injustice, trampling upon man’s dignity and his right to life.

Lord Jesus, 

do not allow us
to be among those who act unjustly.
Do not allow the strong
to take pleasure in evil,
injustice and tyranny.
Do not allow injustice
to condemn the innocent
to despair and death.
Confirm them in hope
and illumine the consciences
of those with authority in this world,
that they may govern with justice.

II Station: Jesus takes up the Cross
II Station: Jesus takes up the Cross - Way of the Cross 2013

A Reading from the Holy Gospel according to Mark 15:20
When they had mocked him, they stripped him of the purple cloak, and put his own clothes on him. And they led him out to crucify him.
Jesus Christ stands before soldiers who think they have complete power over him, while he is the One through whom "all things were made ... and without him was not anything made that was made" (Jn 1:3).

In every age, man has thought he could take the place of God and determine for himself what is good and what is evil (cf. Gen 3:5) without reference to his Creator and Saviour. He has thought himself omnipotent, capable of excluding God from his own life and from that of his peers, in the name of reason, power or money.

Today too, the world bows to realities that seek to expel God from human life, such as the blind secularism that suffocates the values of faith and morals in the name of an alleged defence of man; or the violent fundamentalism that claims to be defending religious values (cf. Ecclesia in Medio Oriente, 29).

Lord Jesus, 

who accepted humiliation
and stood alongside the weak,
we entrust to you
all who are humiliated and suffering,
especially those from the tormented East.
Grant that they may find in you
the strength to be able to carry
their Cross of hope with you.
We place into your hands
all who are lost,
so that, thanks to you,
they may find truth and love.

III Station: Jesus falls for the first time
III Station: Jesus falls for the first time - Way of the Cross 2013

A Reading from the Prophet Isaiah 53:5
He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we are healed.
He who holds the lights of heaven in his divine hand and before whom the powers of heaven tremble: see him falling to the ground, without protecting himself, under the heavy yoke of the Cross.

He who brought peace to the world, wounded by our sins, falls under the burden of our guilt.

"O ye faithful, behold our Saviour as he moves forward along the path to Calvary. Oppressed by bitter sufferings, his strength abandons him. Let us go to see this incredible event that surpasses our understanding and defies description. The foundations of the earth were shaken and a dreadful fear took hold of those who were present when their Creator and God was crushed under the weight of the Cross and let himself be led to death, for love of all humanity" (Chaldean Liturgy).

Lord Jesus, 

raise us from our own falls,
lead our wandering spirit
back to your Truth.
Do not allow human reason,
which you created for yourself,
to be satisfied with the partial truths
of science and technology
without seeking to pose the fundamental questions
of the meaning of our existence 
(cf. Porta Fidei, 12).
Grant, Lord, 
that we may open ourselves to the action of your Holy Spirit,
so that he may lead us to the fullness of Truth.

IV Station: Jesus meets his mother
IV Station: Jesus meets his mother - Way of the Cross 2013

A Reading from the Holy Gospel according to Luke 2:34-35, 51b
Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, "Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is spoken against (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed." His mother kept all these things in her heart.
Wounded and suffering, carrying mankind’s Cross, Jesus meets his mother and, in her face, all mankind.

Mary the Mother of God was the first disciple of the Master. In accepting the Angel’s message, she encountered the Incarnate Word for the first time and became the Temple of the living God. She met him without understanding how the Creator of heaven and earth could have wanted to choose a young girl, a fragile creature, in order to become incarnate in this world. She met him in a constant search for his face, mediating on the word in the silence of her heart. She thought she was seeking him, but in reality, it was he who was seeking her.

Now he encounters her as he carries the Cross.

Jesus suffers on seeing his mother suffer, as does Mary on seeing her Son suffer. But from this shared suffering a new humanity is born. "Salam to you! We implore you, holy and glorious ever-Virgin, Mother of God, Mother of Christ. Let our prayer rise up before your beloved Son, that he may forgive our sins" (Theotikon from the Horologion, Al-Aghbia, 37).

Lord Jesus, 

in our families we too experience
the sufferings caused to children by their parents
and to parents by their children.
Lord, grant that in these difficult times
our families may be places of your presence,
so that our sufferings may be turned to joy.
Support our families
and make them oases of love,
peace and serenity,
in the image of the Holy Family of Nazareth.

V Station: Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus to carry the Cross
V Station: Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus to carry the Cross - Way of the Cross 2013

A Reading from the Holy Gospel according to Luke 23:26
As they led him away, they seized one Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, and laid on him the Cross, to carry it behind Jesus.
Jesus’ meeting with Simon of Cyrene took place in silence, providing us with a lesson for our lives: God does not want suffering and he does not accept evil. The same is true of the human being. But suffering, accepted in faith, is transformed into a path of salvation. Then we accept it as Jesus did, and we help to carry it as Simon of Cyrene did.

Lord Jesus, 

you have involved man in the carrying of your Cross.
You have invited us to share your sufferings.
Simon of Cyrene is like us
and he teaches us to accept the Cross
that we encounter on the paths of life.
Following your example, Lord,
we too carry the Cross
of suffering and illness today,
but we accept it because you are with us.
It can nail us to our chair,
but it cannot prevent us from dreaming;
it can obscure our vision,
but it cannot touch our conscience;
it can deafen our ears,
but it cannot prevent us from listening;
it can bind our tongue
but it cannot suppress our thirst for truth;
it can weigh down our spirit,
but it cannot rob us of our freedom.
we want to be your disciples
so as to carry your Cross every day;
we will carry it with joy and hope
because you are carrying it with us,
because you have triumphed over death for us.
We give you thanks, Lord,
for every sick or ailing person
who knows how to bear witness to your love,
and for every "Simon of Cyrene"
whom you place on our journey.

VI Station: Veronica wipes the face of Jesus
VI Station: Veronica wipes the face of Jesus - Way of the Cross 2013

A Reading from the Book of Psalms 27:8-9
Of you my heart has spoken: "Seek his face." It is your face, O Lord, that I seek; hide not your face. Dismiss not your servant in anger; you have been my help. Do not abandon or forsake me, O God my help!
Veronica sought you in the midst of the crowd. She sought you and finally found you. While your anguish was at its height, she wanted to ease it by wiping your face with a towel. A small gesture, but it expressed all her love for you and all her faith in you; it has remained impressed on the memory of our Christian tradition.

Lord Jesus, 

it is your face that we seek.
Veronica reminds us that you are present
in every person who suffers
and goes forward along his or her path to Golgotha.
Lord, grant that we may find you in the poor,
in the least of your brethren,
in order to wipe away the tears of those who weep,
to take care of those who suffer
and to support those who are weak.
Lord, you teach us
that a wounded and forgotten person
loses neither worth nor dignity
and remains a sign
of your hidden presence in the world.
Help us to wipe away from his or her face
the marks of poverty and injustice,
so that your image in him or her
may be revealed and may shine forth.
We pray for those who are seeking your Face
and who find it in those of the homeless,
the poor and children exposed to violence and exploitation.

VII Station: Jesus falls for the second time
VII Station: Jesus falls for the second time - Way of the Cross 2013

A Reading from the Book of Psalms 22:8,12
All who see me deride me. They curl their lips, they toss their heads. Do not leave me alone in my distress; come close, there is none else to help.
Jesus is alone under the interior and exterior weight of the Cross. In this fall, the weight of evil becomes too great and there seems no longer to be any limit to injustice and violence.

But he rises once more, strong in the infinite trust that he places in his Father. Before the men who abandon him to his lot, the power of the Spirit raises him up; it unites him fully to the Father’s will, that of love which can do all things.

Lord Jesus, in your second fall, 

we recognize so many of our situations
from which there seems to be no way of escape.
Among them are those that derive from prejudice and hatred,
which harden our hearts
and lead to religious conflicts.
Enlighten our minds
so that they recognize,
despite "human and religious differences,"
that "a ray of truth
shines on all men and women",
called to walk together
– with respect for religious freedom –
towards the truth that is in God alone.
Thus, the different religions can
"join one another in service to the common good
and contribute to the development of each person
and the building of society" (Ecclesia in Medio Oriente, 27-28).
Come, Holy Spirit,
to console and strengthen Christians,
especially those from the Middle East,
so that, united in Christ,
they may be witnesses of your universal love
in an area torn apart by injustice and conflicts.

VIII Station: Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem who weep for him
VIII Station: Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem who weep for him - Way of the Cross 2013

A Reading from the Holy Gospel according to Luke 23:27-28
There followed him a great multitude of the people, and of women who bewailed and lamented him. But Jesus turning to them said, "Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children."
On the path to Calvary, the Lord meets the women of Jerusalem. These women are weeping at the Lord’s sufferings as if it were suffering without hope. All they can see in the Cross is the wood, sign of a curse (cf. Dt 21:23), whereas the Lord chose it as a means of Redemption and Salvation.

In the Passion and Crucifixion, Jesus gives his life as a ransom for many. Thus he gave relief to those who were oppressed under the yoke and he consoled the afflicted. He wiped away the tears of the women of Jerusalem and opened their eyes to Paschal truth.

Our world is full of afflicted mothers, of women whose dignity has been wounded, abused by discrimination, injustice and suffering (cf. Ecclesia in Medio Oriente, 60). O suffering Christ, be their peace and be a balm to their wounds.
Lord Jesus, 

by your incarnation from Mary,
"Blessed among women" (Lk 1:42),
you raised the dignity of every woman.
With the Incarnation
you unified the human race (cf. Gal 3:26-28).
may the encounter with you be the desire of our hearts.
Let our path, filled with sufferings,
always be a path of hope,
with you and towards you
who are the refuge of our life
and our Salvation.

IX Station: Jesus falls for the third time under the weight of the Cross
IX Station: Jesus falls for the third time under the weight of the Cross - Way of the Cross 2013

A Reading from the Second Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians 5:14-15
The love of Christ controls us, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. And he died for all, that those who live might live no longer for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.
For the third time Jesus falls under the Cross, burdened with our sins, and for the third time he seeks to get up again, summoning up the strength that remains to him, so as to continue his journey towards Golgotha, refusing to let himself be crushed and to succumb to temptation.

From the moment of his Incarnation, Jesus carries the Cross of human suffering and sin. He has fully and eternally assumed human nature, showing men that victory is possible and that the path towards divine sonship is open.

Lord Jesus, 

the Church, born from your open side,
is oppressed under the Cross of the divisions
that distance Christians from one another
and from the unity that you willed for them;
they turn away from your desire
"that they may all be one" (Jn 17:21)
as the Father is with you.
This cross bears down with all its weight
on their lives and on their common testimony.
Grant us, Lord, the wisdom and the humility
to rise once more and to move forward along the path of unity,
in truth and love,
without succumbing to the temptation
to have recourse merely to the criteria
of personal or sectarian interests,
in the face of our divisions (cf. Ecclesia in Medio Oriente, 11).
Grant that we may renounce the mentality of division,
"lest the Cross of Christ be emptied of its power" (1 Cor 1:17).

X Station: Jesus is stripped of his garments
X Station: Jesus is stripped of his garments - Way of the Cross 2013

A Reading from the Book of Psalms 22:19
They divide my clothing among them, they cast lots for my robe.
In the fullness of time, Lord Jesus, you clothed yourself in our humanity, you whose "train filled the temple" (Is 6:1); already, you are walking in our midst, and those who wish to touch the hem of your garments are healed. But you have been stripped even of this garment, Lord! They have stolen your cloak and you have also given us your tunic (cf. Mt 5:40). You have allowed the veil of your flesh to be torn so that we might once more be admitted into the Father’s presence (cf. Heb 10:19-20).

We thought we could find fulfilment by ourselves, independently of you (cf. Gen 3:4-7). We found ourselves naked, but in your infinite love you reclothed us with the dignity of sons and daughters of God and of his sanctifying grace.

Bestow, Lord, upon the children of the Eastern Churches – stripped by various difficulties, sometimes to the point of persecution, and weakened by emigration – the courage to remain in their countries to proclaim the Good News.

O Jesus, Son of Man, 

who were stripped so as to reveal to us
the new creation raised from the dead,
tear in us the veil that separates us from God
and weave in us your divine presence.
Grant us to conquer fear
before the events of life
that strip us and leave us naked,
and to put on the new man of our Baptism,
in order that we may announce the Good News,
proclaiming that you are the only true God
who guides history.

XI Station: Jesus is nailed to the Cross
XI Station: Jesus is nailed to the Cross - Way of the Cross 2013

A Reading from the Holy Gospel according to John 19:16a,19
Then he handed him over to them to be crucified. Pilate also wrote a title and put it on the cross; it read: "Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews."
Behold, the long-awaited Messiah, hanging on the wood of the cross between two thieves. The two hands which blessed humanity are pierced. The two feet which trod our earth to proclaim the Good News are now suspended between earth and heaven. The eyes full of love, whose gaze healed the sick and forgave our sins, now gaze only heavenward.

Lord Jesus, 

you were crucified for our sins.
You pray to God the Father and you intercede for humanity.
Each hammer blow echoes like a beat of your immolated heart.
How beautiful upon the mount of Calvary
are the feet of the One who proclaims
the Good News of salvation.
Your love, Jesus, has filled the universe.
Your pierced hands
are our refuge in distress.
They embrace us
whenever the abyss of sin threatens us,
and in your wounds
we find healing and forgiveness.
O Jesus,
we pray to you for all those young people
who are overcome by hopelessness,
for young people who are the victims of drugs,
of sects and of perversions.
Free them from their enslavement.
May they lift up their gaze and accept Love.
May they find happiness in you;
save them, our Saviour.

XII Station: Jesus dies on the cross
XII Station: Jesus dies on the cross - Way of the Cross 2013

A Reading from the Holy Gospel according to Luke 23:46
Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said: "Father, into your hands I commend my spirit." And having said this, he breathed his last.
From the height of the cross a cry is heard a cry: a cry of abandonment at the moment of death, a cry of trust amid suffering, a cry accompanying the birth of a new life. Behold, hanging on the tree of life, you deliver your spirit into your Father’s hands, causing life to spring up in abundance and forming the new creation. Today we too face the challenges of this world: we sense the surge of fears which overwhelm us and shake our trust. Grant us, Lord, the strength to know deep within our heart that no death will conquer us, until we rest in the hands which have shaped us and accompany us.

May every one of us be able to cry out:

"Yesterday I was crucified with Christ,
today I am glorified with him.
Yesterday I died with him,
today I live with him.
Yesterday I was buried with him.
Today I have risen with him." (Gregory Nazianzen)
In the darkness of our nights,
we contemplate you.
Teach us to turn towards the Most High,
your heavenly Father.
Today, let us pray
that all those who promote abortion
may become aware that love
can only be a source of life.
Let us think also of those who defend euthanasia
and those who encourage
techniques and procedures
which endanger human life.
Open their hearts
to know you in the truth
and to work for the building
of the civilization of life and love.

XIII Station: Jesus is taken down from the cross and given to his Mother
XIII Station: Jesus is taken down from the cross and given to his Mother - Way of the Cross 2013

A Reading from the Holy Gospel according to John 19:26-27a
When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother: "Woman, behold your son!" Then he said to the disciple: "Behold, your mother!"
Lord Jesus, those who love you remain at your side and keep faith. In the hour of your agony and death, when the world believes that evil triumphs and that the voice of truth, love, justice and peace is silent, their faith does not fail.

O Mary, into your hands we place our earth. "How sad it is to see this blessed land suffer in its children, who relentlessly tear one another to pieces and die!" (Ecclesia in Medio Oriente, 8). It seems that nothing can overcome evil, terrorism, murder and hatred. "Before the cross on which your Son stretched out his sinless hands for our salvation, O Virgin, we fall prostrate this day: grant us peace" (Byzantine liturgy).

Let us pray 

for the victims of the wars and of the violence
which in our days devastate
various countries in the Middle East,
as well as other parts of the world.
Let us pray that the displaced and the forced migrants
may soon return
to their homes and lands.
Grant, Lord,
that the blood of innocent victims
may be the seed of a new East,
ever more fraternal, peaceful and just,
and that this East
may recover the splendour of its vocation
as the cradle of civilization and of spiritual and human values.
Star of the East,
show us the coming of the Dawn!

XIV Station: Jesus is laid in the tomb
XIV Station: Jesus is laid in the tomb - Way of the Cross 2013

A Reading from the Holy Gospel according to John 19:39-40
Nicodemus also, who had at first come to him by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds weight. They took the body of Jesus, and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews.
Nicodemus receives the body of Christ, he looks after it and puts it in a tomb in the middle of a garden which evokes the garden of Creation. Jesus lets himself be buried, even as he let himself be crucified, in the same abandonment, entirely "delivered" into the hands of men and "perfectly united" to them, "even to sleeping beneath the tombstone" (Saint Gregory of Narek).

To accept difficulties, painful events, death, demands steadfast hope, living faith.

The stone placed before the entrance of the tomb will be overturned and a new life will arise. For "we were buried with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life." (Rom 6:4)

We have received the freedom of the children of God, so that we will not return to slavery; life has been given to us in abundance, so that we will no longer be satisfied with a life lacking beauty and meaning.

Lord Jesus, 

make us children of the light
who do not fear the darkness.
We pray to you today
for all those who search for meaning in life
and for all those who have lost hope,
that they may have faith in your victory
over sin and death.

Message Of The Virgin Mary To The World on March 25, 2013 From Medjugorje

"Dear children! In this time of grace I call you to take the cross of my beloved Son Jesus in your hands and to meditate on His passion and death. May your suffering be united in His suffering and love will win, because He who is love gave Himself out of love to save each of you. Pray, pray, pray until love and peace begin to reign in your hearts. Thank you for having responded to my call." 

Pope Francis' Mass and Homily on Palm Sunday, March 24, 2013

Pope Francis celebrated his first Palm Sunday Mass at the Vatican this morning. Tens of thousands of pilgrims filled St Peter’s Square for the Mass, which marked the beginning of Holy Week. In his homily the Pope said that embracing the Cross leads to joy.

He said: “Do not be men and women of sadness: a Christian can never be sad! “Ours is not a joy that comes from having many possessions, but from having encountered a Person. We accompany, we follow Jesus, but above all we know that he accompanies us and carries us on his shoulders.”

The Pope also noted that Palm Sunday marked the Church’s 28th World Youth Day. He confirmed publicly that he intends to travel to the World Youth Day event in Rio de Janeiro in July. Addressing young people in the congregation, he said: “I look forward joyfully to next July in Rio de Janeiro! I will see you in that great city in Brazil!”

Here is the full text of Pope Francis’s Palm Sunday homily:

1. Jesus enters Jerusalem. The crowd of disciples accompanies him in festive mood, their garments are stretched out before him, there is talk of the miracles he has accomplished, and loud praises are heard: “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord. Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” (Lk 19:38). Crowds, celebrating, praise, blessing, peace: joy fills the air. Jesus has awakened great hopes, especially in the hearts of the simple, the humble, the poor, the forgotten, those who do not matter in the eyes of the world. He understands human sufferings, he has shown the face of God’s mercy, he has bent down to heal body and soul. Now he enters the Holy City! It is a beautiful scene, full of light, joy, celebration. At the beginning of Mass, we repeated all this. We waved our palms, our olive branches, we sang “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord” (Antiphon); we too welcomed Jesus; we too expressed our joy at accompanying him, at knowing him to be close, present in us and among us as a friend, a brother, and also as a King: that is, a shining beacon for our lives. And here the first word that comes to mind is “joy!” Do not be men and women of sadness: a Christian can never be sad! Never give way to discouragement! Ours is not a joy that comes from having many possessions, but from having encountered a Person: Jesus, from knowing that with him we are never alone, even at difficult moments, even when our life’s journey comes up against problems and obstacles that seem insurmountable, and there are so many of them! We accompany, we follow Jesus, but above all we know that he accompanies us and carries us on his shoulders. This is our joy, this is the hope that we must bring to this world of ours. Let us bring the joy of the faith to everyone!

2. But we have to ask: why does Jesus enter Jerusalem? Or better: how does Jesus enter Jerusalem? The crowds acclaim him as King. And he does not deny it, he does not tell them to be silent (cf. Lk 19:39-40). But what kind of a King is Jesus? Let us take a look at him: he is riding on a donkey, he is not accompanied by a court, he is not surrounded by an army as a symbol of power. He is received by humble people, simple folk. Jesus does not enter the Holy City to receive the honours reserved to earthly kings, to the powerful, to rulers; he enters to be scourged, insulted and abused, as Isaiah foretold in the First Reading (cf. Is 50:6). He enters to receive a crown of thorns, a staff, a purple robe: his kingship becomes an object of derision. He enters to climb Calvary, carrying his burden of wood. And this brings us to the second word: Cross. Jesus enters Jerusalem in order to die on the Cross. And it is here that his kingship shines forth in godly fashion: his royal throne is the wood of the Cross! I think of what Benedict XVI said to the cardinals: "You are princes but of a Crucified King"...Jesus says: “I am a King”; but his power is God’s power which confronts the world’s evil and the sin that disfigures man’s face. Jesus takes upon himself the evil, the filth, the sin of the world, including our own sin, and he cleanses it, he cleanses it with his blood, with the mercy and the love of God. Let us look around: how many wounds are inflicted upon humanity by evil! Wars, violence, economic conflicts that hit the weakest, greed for money, which no-one can bring with him, my grandmother would say, no shroud has pockets!

Greed for money, power, corruption, divisions, crimes against human life and against creation! And our personal sins: our failures in love and respect towards God, towards our neighbour and towards the whole of creation. Jesus on the Cross feels the whole weight of the evil, and with the force of God’s love he conquers it, he defeats it with his resurrection. Dear friends, we can all conquer the evil that is in us and in the world: with Christ, with the force of good! Do we feel weak, inadequate, powerless? But God is not looking for powerful means: it is through the Cross that he has conquered evil! We must not believe the Evil One when he tells us: you can do nothing to counter violence, corruption, injustice, your sins! We must never grow accustomed to evil! With Christ we can transform ourselves and the world. We must bear the victory of Christ’s Cross to everyone everywhere, we must bear this great love of God. And this requires all of us not to be afraid to step outside ourselves, to reach out to others. In the Second Reading, Saint Paul tells us that Jesus emptied himself, assuming our condition, and he came to meet us (cf. Phil 2:7). Let us learn to look up towards God, but also down towards others, towards the least of all! And we must not be afraid of sacrifice. Think of a mother or a father: what sacrifices they make! But why? For love! And how do they bear those sacrifices? With joy, because they are made for their loved ones. Christ’s Cross embraced with love does not lead to sadness, but to joy!

3. Today in this Square, there are many young people: for 28 years Palm Sunday has been World Youth Day! This is our third word: youth! Dear young people, I think of you celebrating around Jesus, waving your olive branches. I think of you crying out his name and expressing your joy at being with him! You have an important part in the celebration of faith! You bring us the joy of faith and you tell us that we must live the faith with a young heart, always, even at the age of seventy or eighty.! A young heart! With Christ, the heart never grows old! Yet all of us, all of you know very well that the King whom we follow and who accompanies us is very special: he is a King who loves even to the Cross and who teaches us to serve and to love. And you are not ashamed of his Cross! On the contrary, you embrace it, because you have understood that it is in giving ourselves that we have true joy and that God has conquered evil through love. You carry the pilgrim Cross through all the Continents, along the highways of the world! You carry it in response to Jesus’ call: “Go, make disciples of all nations” (Mt 28:19), which is the theme of World Youth Day this year. You carry it so as to tell everyone that on the Cross Jesus knocked down the wall of enmity that divides people and nations, and he brought reconciliation and peace. Dear friends, I too am setting out on a journey with you, from today, in the footsteps of Blessed John Paul II and Benedict XVI. We are already close to the next stage of this great pilgrimage of Christ’s Cross. I look forward joyfully to next July in Rio de Janeiro! I will see you in that great city in Brazil! Prepare well – prepare spiritually above all – in your communities, so that our gathering in Rio may be a sign of faith for the whole world. Young people must tell the world that it is good to follow Jesus, that it is good to love Jesus and that it is good to go out to the preferies of the world and follow Jesus!

Three words: Joy, Cross and Youth.
Let us ask the intercession of the Virgin Mary. She teaches us the joy of meeting Christ, the love with which we must look to the foot of the Cross, the enthusiasm of the young heart with which we must follow him during this Holy Week and throughout our lives. Amen.

Holy Gospel: Palm Sunday. March 24, 2013

Letter to the Philippians 1:1-13. 
Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the bishops and deacons: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now. I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to think this way about all of you, because you hold me in your heart, for all of you share in God’s grace with me, both in my imprisonment and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the compassion of Christ Jesus. And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight to help you to determine what is best, so that on the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God. I want you to know, beloved, that what has happened to me has actually helped to spread the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to everyone else that my imprisonment is for Christ;

Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to
Saint John 12:12-22. 
The next day the great crowd that had come to the festival heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, shouting, ‘Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord the King of Israel!’ Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it; as it is written: ‘Do not be afraid, daughter of Zion. Look, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!’ His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written of him and had been done to him. So the crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to testify. It was also because they heard that he had performed this sign that the crowd went to meet him. The Pharisees then said to one another, ‘You see, you can do nothing. Look, the world has gone after him! ’ Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, ‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus.’ Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus.

The Way Of The Cross On The Streets Of Old Jerusalem

The way of the cross (Via Dolorosa in Latin) in the city of Jerusalem is one of the most important pilgrimage places for Christians of different rites. The faithful walk on the footsteps of Jesus along the way he took after his condemnation by Pilate and his crucifixion and burial. 

The route of the Via Dolorosa begins near the Lions' Gate in the Muslim Quarter and ends at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Christian Quarter, covering 500 meters and incorporating 14 Stations of the Cross. Unfortunately, the Via Dolorosa can prove a difficult place for prayer and contemplation, as it travels through narrow and busy streets lined with many tourist shops.

Each of the 14 Stations of the Cross along the Via Dolorosa is marked with a plaque, but these small signs can be difficult to spot. The last 5 stations of the cross (10 to 14) are located inside the church of the Holy Sepulcher. 

The Via Dolorosa pilgrimage has been followed since early Christianity. Originally, Byzantine pilgrims followed a similar path to the one taken today. The path was changed in the 8th century and then again between the 14th and the 16th centuries. Today, the main route of the Via Dolorosa is the one of the early Byzantine pilgrims, with 14 stations along the way. But for most pilgrims, however, the exact location of each event along the Via Dolorosa is of little importance; since that being there has a great meaning due to the great proximity of the place to the original events and the reflection upon them along the way.

Pope Francis's Message to the Representatives of Different Churches and Religions

On Wednesday, March 20 2013, Pope Francis received several dozen representatives of the various Christian Churches and other world religions, who attended the Pope’s inauguration. Among them were several leaders from the Orthodox Church, Orthodox Oriental Church, the Anglican Communion, and various Protestant churches, including the Lutheran, Baptist and Methodist churches. Representatives from the Jewish and Muslim faiths were also present. 

Below is the full text of the Pope's discourse: 

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
First of all, heartfelt thanks for what my Brother Andrew told us. Thank you so much! Thank you so much! It is a source of particular joy to meet you today, delegates of the Orthodox Churches, the Oriental Orthodox Churches and Ecclesial Communities of the West. Thank you for wanting to take part in the celebration that marked the beginning of my ministry as Bishop of Rome and Successor of Peter. Yesterday morning, during the Mass, through you , I recognized the communities you represent. In this manifestation of faith, I had the feeling of taking part in an even more urgent fashion the prayer for the unity of all believers in Christ, and together to see somehow prefigured the full realization of full unity which depends on God’s plan and on our own loyal collaboration.

I begin my Apostolic Ministry in this year during which my venerable Predecessor, Benedict XVI, with true inspiration, proclaimed the Year of Faith for the Catholic Church. With this initiative, that I wish to continue and which I hope will be an inspiration for every one’s journey of faith, he wished to mark the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council, thus proposing a sort of pilgrimage towards what for every Christian represents the essential: the personal and transforming relationship with Jesus Christ, Son of God, who died and rose for our salvation. This effort to proclaim this eternal treasure of faith to the people of our time, lies at the heart of the Council's message.

Together with you I cannot forget how much the council has meaning for the ecumenical journey. I like to remember the words that Blessed John XXIII, of whom we will soon mark 50 years since his death, when he gave his memorable inauguration speech: "The Catholic Church therefore considers it her duty to work actively so that there may be fulfilled the great mystery of that unity, which Christ Jesus invoked with fervent prayer from His heavenly Father on the eve of His sacrifice. She rejoices in peace, knowing well that she is intimately associated with that prayer ". 

Yes, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all be intimately united to our Saviour's prayer at the Last Supper, to his invocation: ut unum sint. We call merciful Father to be able to fully live the faith that we have received as a gift on the day of our Baptism, and to be able to it free, joyful and courageous testimony. The more we are faithful to his will, in thoughts, in words and in deeds, the more we will truly and substantially walk towards unity.

For my part, I wish to assure, in the wake of my predecessors, the firm wish to continue on the path of ecumenical dialogue, and I thank you, the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity, for the help it continues to offer in my name, for this noble cause. I ask you, dear brothers and sisters, to bring my cordial greetings to the Churches and Christian communities who are represented here. And I ask you for a special prayer for me so that I can be a pastor according to the heart of Christ.

And now I turn to you, distinguished representatives of the Jewish people, to whom we are bound by a very special spiritual bond, from the moment that, as the Second Vatican Council said, "thus the Church of Christ acknowledges that according to God’s saving design, the beginnings of her faith and her election are found already among the Patriarchs, Moses and the prophets".(Decree Nostra Aetate, 4). I thank you for your presence and trust that with the help of the Almighty, we can continue that fruitful fraternal dialogue that the Council wished for. And that it is actually achieved, bringing many fruits, especially during the last decades. 

I greet and thank cordially all of you, dear friends belonging to other religious traditions; firstly the Muslims, who worship the one living and merciful God, and call upon Him in prayer. I really appreciate your presence, and in it I see a tangible sign of the wish to grow in reciprocal trust and in cooperation for the common good of humanity.

The Catholic Church is aware of the importance of the promotion of friendship and respect between men and women of different religious traditions – this I wish to repeat this: the promotion of friendship and respect between men and women of different religious traditions – this is attested evident also in the valuable work undertaken by the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue. The Church is equally aware of the responsibility that each of us bring towards our world, and to the whole of creation, that we must love and protect. And we can do a lot for the good of the less fortunate, for those who are weak and suffering, to promote justice, to promote reconciliation, to build peace.. But above all, we must keep alive in our world the thirst for the absolute, and must not allow the vision of the human person with a single dimension to prevail, according to which man is reduced to what he produces and to what he consumes: this is one most dangerous threats of our times.

We know how much violence has been provoked in recent history by the attempt to eliminate God and the divine from the horizon of humanity, and we feel the need to witness in our societies the original openness to transcendence that is inherent in the human heart. In this we feel the closeness also of those men and women who, while not belonging to any religious tradition, feel, however the need to search for the truth, the goodness and the beauty of God, and who are our precious allies in efforts to defend the dignity of man, in the building of a peaceful coexistence between peoples and in the careful protection of creation. Dear friends, thank you for your presence. To all, I offer my cordial and fraternal greetings.

Cardinal Rai's Role Extends Beyond His Religious Ministry

Consultations between the Patriarch of Antioch of the Maronites Boutros Bechara Rai and political leaders of the Lebanese delegation, who arrived in the City to attend the opening Mass of the Petrine ministry of Pope Francis, continue in Rome. Discussions are focusing on the impasse on the electoral law that is paralyzing the political life in Lebanon in a very delicate moment, while there is a growing risk that the Syrian conflict destabilizes the Country of the Cedars.Yesterday Patriarch Rai - who as a member of the College of Cardinals took part in the Conclave - had extensive discussions with the President of the House Nabih Berri and Prime Minister Nagib Mikati. Consultations continued on Monday 18 at the Maronite Pontifical College in Via di Porta Pinciana with the participation of the Lebanese Minister of the Environment Nazem Khoury, who is also in Rome.

On Sunday 17, the President of the Chamber Berri issued to the Lebanese press statements full of expectations: "As the white smoke has risen from this country," said the Lebanese politician of Shiite confession "we hope that the prayers of the Patriarch, as well as the initiative on his behalf will help us to raise a white smoke meaning the end of our problems, especially with regard to the electoral law." 

Pope Francis's Homily on his Inaugural Mass Of His Papal Ministry. March 19, 2013

Full text of the homily of the Holy Father at the Inauguration of his Papal Ministry 19 March 2013:

Dear Brothers and Sisters, I thank the Lord that I can celebrate this Holy Mass for the inauguration of my Petrine ministry on the solemnity of Saint Joseph, the spouse of the Virgin Mary and the patron of the universal Church. It is a significant coincidence, and it is also the name-day of my venerable predecessor: we are close to him with our prayers, full of affection and gratitude.

I offer a warm greeting to my brother cardinals and bishops, the priests, deacons, men and women religious, and all the lay faithful. I thank the representatives of the other Churches and ecclesial Communities, as well as the representatives of the Jewish community and the other religious communities, for their presence. My cordial greetings go to the Heads of State and Government, the members of the official Delegations from many countries throughout the world, and the Diplomatic Corps.

In the Gospel we heard that “Joseph did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took Mary as his wife” (Mt 1:24). These words already point to the mission which God entrusts to Joseph: he is to be the custos, the protector. The protector of whom? Of Mary and Jesus; but this protection is then extended to the Church, as Blessed John Paul II pointed out: “Just as Saint Joseph took loving care of Mary and gladly dedicated himself to Jesus Christ’s upbringing, he likewise watches over and protects Christ’s Mystical Body, the Church, of which the Virgin Mary is the exemplar and model” (Redemptoris Custos, 1).

How does Joseph exercise his role as protector? Discreetly, humbly and silently, but with an unfailing presence and utter fidelity, even when he finds it hard to understand. From the time of his betrothal to Mary until the finding of the twelve-year-old Jesus in the Temple of Jerusalem, he is there at every moment with loving care. As the spouse of Mary, he is at her side in good times and bad, on the journey to Bethlehem for the census and in the anxious and joyful hours when she gave birth; amid the drama of the flight into Egypt and during the frantic search for their child in the Temple; and later in the day-to-day life of the home of Nazareth, in the workshop where he taught his trade to Jesus.

How does Joseph respond to his calling to be the protector of Mary, Jesus and the Church? By being constantly attentive to God, open to the signs of God’s presence and receptive to God’s plans, and not simply to his own. This is what God asked of David, as we heard in the first reading. God does not want a house built by men, but faithfulness to his word, to his plan. It is God himself who builds the house, but from living stones sealed by his Spirit. Joseph is a “protector” because he is able to hear God’s voice and be guided by his will; and for this reason he is all the more sensitive to the persons entrusted to his safekeeping. He can look at things realistically, he is in touch with his surroundings, he can make truly wise decisions. In him, dear friends, we learn how to respond to God’s call, readily and willingly, but we also see the core of the Christian vocation, which is Christ! Let us protect Christ in our lives, so that we can protect others, so that we can protect creation!

The vocation of being a “protector”, however, is not just something involving us Christians alone; it also has a prior dimension which is simply human, involving everyone. It means protecting all creation, the beauty of the created world, as the Book of Genesis tells us and as Saint Francis of Assisi showed us. It means respecting each of God’s creatures and respecting the environment in which we live. It means protecting people, showing loving concern for each and every person, especially children, the elderly, those in need, who are often the last we think about. It means caring for one another in our families: husbands and wives first protect one another, and then, as parents, they care for their children, and children themselves, in time, protect their parents. It means building sincere friendships in which we protect one another in trust, respect, and goodness. In the end, everything has been entrusted to our protection, and all of us are responsible for it. Be protectors of God’s gifts!

Whenever human beings fail to live up to this responsibility, whenever we fail to care for creation and for our brothers and sisters, the way is opened to destruction and hearts are hardened. Tragically, in every period of history there are “Herods” who plot death, wreak havoc, and mar the countenance of men and women.

Please, I would like to ask all those who have positions of responsibility in economic, political and social life, and all men and women of goodwill: let us be “protectors” of creation, protectors of God’s plan inscribed in nature, protectors of one another and of the environment. Let us not allow omens of destruction and death to accompany the advance of this world! But to be “protectors”, we also have to keep watch over ourselves! Let us not forget that hatred, envy and pride defile our lives! Being protectors, then, also means keeping watch over our emotions, over our hearts, because they are the seat of good and evil intentions: intentions that build up and tear down! We must not be afraid of goodness or even tenderness!

Here I would add one more thing: caring, protecting, demands goodness, it calls for a certain tenderness. In the Gospels, Saint Joseph appears as a strong and courageous man, a working man, yet in his heart we see great tenderness, which is not the virtue of the weak but rather a sign of strength of spirit and a capacity for concern, for compassion, for genuine openness to others, for love. We must not be afraid of goodness, of tenderness!

Today, together with the feast of Saint Joseph, we are celebrating the beginning of the ministry of the new Bishop of Rome, the Successor of Peter, which also involves a certain power. Certainly, Jesus Christ conferred power upon Peter, but what sort of power was it? Jesus’ three questions to Peter about love are followed by three commands: feed my lambs, feed my sheep. Let us never forget that authentic power is service, and that the Pope too, when exercising power, must enter ever more fully into that service which has its radiant culmination on the Cross. He must be inspired by the lowly, concrete and faithful service which marked Saint Joseph and, like him, he must open his arms to protect all of God’s people and embrace with tender affection the whole of humanity, especially the poorest, the weakest, the least important, those whom Matthew lists in the final judgment on love: the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and those in prison (cf. Mt 25:31-46). Only those who serve with love are able to protect!

In the second reading, Saint Paul speaks of Abraham, who, “hoping against hope, believed” (Rom 4:18). Hoping against hope! Today too, amid so much darkness, we need to see the light of hope and to be men and women who bring hope to others. To protect creation, to protect every man and every woman, to look upon them with tenderness and love, is to open up a horizon of hope; it is to let a shaft of light break through the heavy clouds; it is to bring the warmth of hope! For believers, for us Christians, like Abraham, like Saint Joseph, the hope that we bring is set against the horizon of God, which has opened up before us in Christ. It is a hope built on the rock which is God.

To protect Jesus with Mary, to protect the whole of creation, to protect each person, especially the poorest, to protect ourselves: this is a service that the Bishop of Rome is called to carry out, yet one to which all of us are called, so that the star of hope will shine brightly. Let us protect with love all that God has given us!

I implore the intercession of the Virgin Mary, Saint Joseph, Saints Peter and Paul, and Saint Francis, that the Holy Spirit may accompany my ministry, and I ask all of you to pray for me! Amen.