At 12pm today, the Holy Father Francis appeared at the window of the study in the Apostolic Palace to pray the Angelus with faithful and pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square.
Here below are the words of the Pope in introducing the Marian prayer:
Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!
On September 14th, the Church celebrates the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. Some non-Christian people might ask themselves: why “exalt” a cross? We can respond that we do not exalt a cross, or all the crosses: we exalt the Cross of Jesus, because in it is revealed fully the love of God for humanity. It is that which reminds us of the Gospel of John in today’s liturgy: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son” (3,16). The Father has “given” the Son to save us, and this resulted in the death of Jesus, and the death on a cross. Why? Why was the Cross necessary? It was because of the gravity of the evil we were enslaved to. The Cross of Jesus expresses two things: all the negative strength of evil, and all gentle omnipotence of the mercy of God. The Cross seems to declare the failure of Jesus, but in reality it marks his victory. On Calvary, those who mocked him would say to him: “If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross” (cfr. Mt. 27,40). But the opposite was true: precisely because he was the Son of God, Jesus was there, on the cross, faithful to the end to the loving plan of the Father. It is precisely this reason why God “exalted” Jesus (Phil. 2,9), conferring on Him a universal kingship.
What do we see, then, when we turn our gaze towards the Cross where Jesus was nailed? We contemplate the sign of the infinite love of God for each and every one of us and the roots of our salvation. From that Cross flows the mercy of the Father who embraces the whole world. Through the cross of Christ, evil is overcome, death is defeated, life is given to us, hope is restored. The Cross of Jesus is our only true hope! This is important! Through the Cross of Christ hope is restored! That is why the Church “exalts” the holy Cross, and that is why we Christians bless ourselves with the Sign of the Cross. That is we do not exalt a cross, but the Glorious Cross of Jesus, a sign of the immense love of God, sign of our salvation, and the path towards the resurrection. And this is our hope.
As we contemplate and celebrate the holy Cross, we think with emotion of so many of our brothers and sisters who are persecuted and killed because of their faithfulness to Christ. This happens especially where religious liberty is still not guaranteed or fully realized. But it also occurs in countries and environments where, in principle, freedom and human rights are guaranteed, but where concretely believers, especially Christians, encounter limitations and discriminations. So today we remember them and pray in a particular way for them.
On Calvary, at the foot of the Cross, was the Virgin Mary (cfr. John 19, 25-27). She is the Sorrowful Virgin, who we celebrate in tomorrow’s liturgy. To Her I entrust the present and the future of the Church, so that we may all discover and receive the message of love and salvation of the Cross of Jesus. I entrust to Her in particular the newlywed couples who I had the joy of uniting in marriage this morning, in St. Peter’s Basilica.
After the recitation of the Angelus, the Pope said:
Dear brothers and sisters,
Tomorrow, in the Central African Republic, will officially begin the Mission desired by the Security Council of the United Nations to promote peace in the country and to protect the civilian population, who are severely suffering the consequences of the ongoing conflict. While I ensure the the commitment and prayers of the Catholic Church, I encourage the efforts of the international community, who are coming to the aid of Central Africans of good will. As soon as the violence gives the way to dialogue, the opposing factions will put aside their special interests and strive to ensure that every citizen, no matter what ethnicity or religion they belong to, can collaborate for the edification of the common good. May the Lord accompany this work for peace.
Yesterday I went to Redipuglia, to the Austro-Hungarian cemetery and the Sacrario. There, I prayed for those who have died because of the great war. The numbers are shocking! It’s estimated that almost 8 million young soldiers were killed as well as almost 7 million civilians. This makes us understand how war is madness! A madness which humanity has not yet learned the lesson! Because after that one, there was a Second World War and so many others that continue today. When will we learn, when will we learn this lesson? I invite everyone to look at Jesus crucified to understand that hatred and evil are defeated by forgiveness and goodness. To understand that war only increases evil and death.
And now I cordially greet all of you, the Roman faithful and pilgrims from Italy and from various countries.
I greet in particular “Los Amigos de Santa Teresita y de Madre Elisabeth” from Colombia; the faithful from Sotto il Monte Giovanni XXIII, Messina, Genova, Collegno e Spoleto, and the youth choir from Trebaseleghe (Padova). I greet the workers representatives of the IDI Group and the adherents of the ‘Movimento Arcobaleno Santa Maria Addolorata.
I ask you all to please pray for me.
To all I wish you a good Sunday and a good lunch. Goodbye![Translation by Junno Arocho Esteves]