The tragedies of the present seen through the lenses of mercy: this is a summary of the spirit of the Via Crucis meditations for this Good Friday at the Colosseum.
In conversation with ZENIT, the Cardinal Archbishop of Perugia, Gualtiero Bassetti, reflected on the texts he wrote for the Via Crucis, concluding that, in following Jesus to Calvary, one must never let oneself be bewitched by sirens of disaster or those who proclaim a faith based on fear or cheap well-meaning dispensers of truth.
ZENIT: Your Eminence, your meditations for the Via Crucis are strongly connected with the Year of Mercy. To what degree did the Jubilee event inspire you in carrying out this important task?
Cardinal Bassetti: The Jubilee is the framework in which the whole Via Crucis is inserted. It is no accident that my meditations are entitled “God is Mercy,” which is a quotation taken from a book with the same name of Don Divo Barsotti, and they reflect on the misery and suffering of the men and women of today. People that, to a large extent, live as if God didn’t exist but who in reality have a great thirst for God and a profound need to slake their thirst at the Lord’s fountain. The tragic problem of today is that they no longer know where to find and recognize the fountain from which this new water flows. Hence the very great need of Mercy, which is the channel of grace that goes from God to men.
ZENIT: In your meditations, you speak of the family as “inalienable cell of common life” and of the sufferings of “broken families.” What is the state of health of the family in present-day society?
Cardinal Bassetti: The family is the hope and sorrow of today’s society. It is the hope because it represents the architrave that rules the whole social edifice, because it is the natural place in which man and woman love one another mutually giving the whole of themselves and opening themselves to life, and, finally, because it is the so-called domestic Church, or primary place for the transmission of the faith and the proclamation of the Gospel. At the same time it is a sorrow, because it is pierced by some profound wounds, which disfigure its image and existence.
ZENIT: What are these wounds?
Cardinal Bassetti: I will point out three, those that, as Pastor, I see more often. First of all, the difficulties that the young generations have to think of themselves as family, to be a family, understood as a relation “for ever.” This difficulty is caused by a widespread “use and throw away” culture, which everything and that confuses romanticism and sensuality with true and free love. In the second place, families marked by the precariousness of work or, by the opposite, pressing rhythms of work, which find themselves living in large cities, without grandparents and with women that very often find themselves before despicable blackmail: maternity or work. And finally, broken families that too often end up in an endless vortex of pain and suffering, which makes its consequences felt in time, for many years, and by many persons close to the broken family nucleus: parents, children, grandchildren, grandparents, relatives.
ZENIT: Another subject you reflect on much is that of migrants and refugees. What can be done to help these persons on whose face, as you have written, one can perceive “the face of Christ”?
Cardinal Bassetti: First of all, to be aware of what is happening. And it doesn’t seem to me that this happens always in Western public opinion. Yet the news and images that come to us are terrible. It is a tragic situation unique in its kind, which is not destined to stop. We are facing a historic event. In the second place, it is a duty to manage the humanitarian emergency, and it is necessary to do so with all the means at our disposition. The help of all is useful – volunteers, non-governmental associations, for instance, the Red Cross, Caritas Internationalis, the Order of Malta. In order to survive, these men, women and children need the help of all persons of good will. Useful, finally, are long-term and farsighted international policies. It is about Politics with a capital “P”, which is able to assume responsibility and, at the same time, to look at human dignity. It is sad and tragic to be limited to say that walls must be built and borders closed.
ZENIT: The subject of persecuted Christians is recurrent and, in the 12th station, you have also written that the new martyrs are the “apostles of the contemporary world.” Can this be one of the keys to read your meditations?
Cardinal Bassetti: It is not the only key to the reading but it is certainly one of the most important passages. Without a doubt the connection between proclamation and martyrdom is a very strong characteristic of the 20th and 21st centuries. I mentioned only a few names, such as Maximilian Kolbe and Edith Stein, but the list could be very long. A list made up of hundreds of thousands of people mostly unknown who witnessed with their life their adherence to Christ. There are places in the world today where one can die for the sole fact of being a Christian. Even doing a funeral means carrying out not only a gesture of piety but one of great heroism to the point of risking losing one’s life. This is the greatest proclamation of the Gospel that can be done today.
ZENIT: Many affirm that the time we are living is, on the whole, one of the most difficult for humanity and particularly for the Church: divisions, scandals, secularization, persecutions — almost a pre-apocalyptic condition, almost a Via Crucis for the whole Church. What is your opinion on this?
Cardinal Bassetti: I think, very simply, that we must raise our gaze to the crucifix, “with sure faith and certain hope,” as Saint Francis said, and not be deceived, as I wrote in the meditations, by “prophets of doom that always proclaim the worst,” as Saint John XXIII said at the opening of Vatican II, or the opposite, “by clever pipers that anesthetize our heart with persuasive music that take us away from the love of Christ.” In sum, if you allow me a journalistic summary, I would advise to be on guard from the catastrophists as well as the do-gooders. We have no need of preachers that proclaim a faith based on fear or of well-meaning cheap dispensers of truth. We need to follow Jesus on Calvary and to await His Resurrection.