Fr Cantalamessa: All of Us, Our Institutions Have Risk of Being Like Pilate, Washing Our Hands

Reflects in Good Friday Homily on How What God Requests of Us Is Not Impossible

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In light of the violence and social evils plaguing the world, the preacher of the Pontifical Household says that today, we can be just like Pontius Pilate, if we wash our hands and look the other way.

Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa said this today during the homily of the liturgy of Good Friday, presided over by Francis in St. Peter’s Basilica.

Recalling that all present just heard the account of Jesus’ trial, the preacher said we must pause and reflect on when Pilate handed over Jesus, saying ‘Here is your man.’

Fr. Cantalamessa pointed out that philosopher Blaise Pascal meditated on the Passion and wrote that, ‘Christ will be in agony until the end of the world; we must not sleep during this time.’

The preacher said the most obvious meaning of these words is that Jesus experiences this agony as long as men and women in this world are subjected to Christ’ same torments.’

Social evils such as hunger, poverty, injustice, and exploiting the weak, are talked about often, though ‘not enough,’ he said. He lamented they, however, are spoken about in a collective sense, as if they were categories, rather than realities and persons.

“Let us think instead of the suffering of individuals, people with names and specific identities; of the tortures that are decided upon in cold blood and voluntarily inflicted at this very moment by human beings on other human beings, even on babies.”

Potential to be Pilate

Fr. Cantalamessa called for the courage to denounce the disturbing indifference of world institutions and public opinion in the face of all this killing of Christians.

“All of us and all our institutions in the West risk being Pilates who wash our hands,” he stated.

However, he added, today, Good Friday, is not the day to make denunciations, for if we do, “We would be betraying the mystery we are celebrating.”

Christ presented his disciples with an example of infinite generosity, he said, because Jesus’ ‘divine grandeur’ of forgiveness is because it was also offered to his most relentless enemies.

Impossible requests

For those who may be tempted to say, “Lord, you are asking us to do the impossible!” Fr. Cantalamessa responded. God would say, he said, that not only did He command forgiveness of His people and give a heroic example of this, but, through His death, He gave them the grace to forgive themselves.

To those who think following Christ mean surrendering oneself passively to defeat and to death, the Papal preacher said, this is not true, for He has ‘overcome the world.’

The true “Sermon on the Mount” that changed history, Fr. Cantalamessa said, is not, however, the one spoken on a hill in Galilee, “but the one now proclaimed, silently, from the Cross.” On Calvary, he adds, Christ delivered a ‘no’ to violence in a way as never before, in a way that makes it no longer possible ‘even remotely’ to link itself and its authority to God.

If this were done, the Papal preacher explained, this would “make the concept of God regress to primitive and crude stages in history that have been surpassed by the religious and civilized conscience of humanity.”

True martyrs

“True martyrs for Christ do not die with clenched fists but with their hands joined in prayer,” he said, mentioning the many recent examples, including the 21 Coptic Christians killed by ISIS in Libya who had “the strength to die whispering the name of Jesus.”

After praying for those being persecuted for their faith, Fr. Cantalamessa prayed that we can overcome evil with good, “not only on the world scene but also in our daily lives, within the walls of our homes.” 

Via Crucis at Colosseum

This evening in Rome, Pope Francis will continue to lead the Via Crucis at the Colosseum where he is expected to speak.

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Deborah Castellano Lubov

Deborah Castellano Lubov is Senior Vatican & Rome Correspondent for ZENIT; author of 'The Other Francis' ('L'Altro Francesco') featuring interviews with those closest to the Pope and preface by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Parolin (currently published in 5 languages); Deborah is also NBC & MSNBC Vatican Analyst. She often covers the Pope's travels abroad, often from the Papal Flight (including for historic trips such as to Abu Dhabi and Japan & Thailand), and has also asked him questions on the return-flight press conference on behalf of the English-speaking press present. Lubov has done much TV & radio commentary, including for NBC, Sky, EWTN, BBC, Vatican Radio, AP, Reuters and more. She also has contributed to various books on the Pope and has written for various Catholic publications. For 'The Other Francis': or

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