Pope's Message to Prisoners for Way of the Cross

«3 times Jesus got back up and continued on the way to Calvary»

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ROME, APRIL 2, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the message Benedict XVI sent to prisoners detained in Rome’s Rebibbia prison for the Way of the Cross they celebrated there last Friday, led by Cardinal Agostino Vallini, vicar general for the Diocese of Rome.

Some 300 prisoners, the chaplain, Caritas volunteers, seminarians who offer daily service inside the prison and numerous faithful from various parishes attended the Way of the Cross. The Pope made a pastoral visit to the jail last Dec. 18.

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Dear brothers!

I was happy to hear that, in preparation for Easter, you will be conducting a Via Crucis at the prison of Rebibbia that will be presided over by my Vicar for Rome, Cardinal Agostino Vallini, with the participation of the prisoners, the prison workers and the faithful from various parishes of the city. I feel particularly close to this event because there is always alive in my soul the memory of the visit I made to the prison of Rebibbia shortly before last Christmas; I remember the faces that I met and the words that I listened to, and they left a deep mark in me. So, I join spiritually in your prayer, and thus I can give continuity to my presence with you and for this I thank your chaplains in particular.

I know that this Via Crucis also intends to be a sign of reconciliation. In effect, as one of the prisoners said during our meeting, prison serves to pick oneself up after having fallen, to be reconciled with oneself, with others and with God. One can then enter again into society. When, in the Via Crucis, we see Jesus who falls to the ground – 1, 2, 3 times – we understand that he shared our human condition, the weight of our sins made him fall; but 3 times Jesus got back up and continued on the way to Calvary; and so, with his help, we too can get back up from our falls, and maybe help another, a brother, to get back to his feet.

But what gave Jesus the strength to go forward? It was the certainty that the Father was with him. Even if in his heart that was all the bitterness of abandonment, Jesus knew that the Father loved him, and precisely this immense love, this infinite mercy of the heavenly Father and was greater than the violence and the injuries that he endured. Even if everyone despised him and no longer treated him as a man, Jesus, in his heart, had the firm certainty of always being a son, the Son loved by God the Father.

This, dear friends, is the great gift that Jesus bestowed upon us in his Via Crucis: he revealed to us that God is infinite love, he is mercy, and he bore completely the weight of our sins so that we might get up again and reconcile and rediscover peace. Therefore we too are not afraid to walk our “via crucis,” to carry our cross together with Jesus. He is with us. And Mary is with us too, his and our mother. She remains faithful, at the foot of our own cross also, and she prays for our resurrection, that we might firmly believe that, even in the blackest night, the light of God’s love is the last word.

With this hope, based on faith, my wish for all of you is that you live Easter in the peace and in the joy that Christ has obtained for us with his blood, and with great affection I impart to you the apostolic benediction, extending it from my heart to your families and your loved ones.

From the Vatican, March 22, 2012


[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]
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