The Holy See
back up



Good Friday, 10 April 2009

"Standing by the Cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala". These words of the Evangelist John, a sorrowful witness to the Crucifixion of Christ, seem to express the state of mind that we too are reliving this morning. With immense devotion we are not only closely gathered in spirit round the many victims not only of the city and the province but also of so many other places and also of other nations victims torn precociously from their relatives by a cruel death. And we feel close to the many families left homeless and deprived of their dearest possessions. We have come here in an act of homage and mourning, and especially for a celebration of prayer. It is the mystery of death that unites us, that brings us to kneel before God, makes us adore his will but immerses us in his eternal love with the prospect of immortality. We are here to pray to the Author of life, sustained by the certainty, as the Word of God affirms, that the souls of the righteous are in the hands of the good and merciful God.

"Standing by the Cross".... Beside these coffins, as beside the Cross of Jesus, stand the grieved and dismayed relatives, friends and acquaintances. The numerous civil and military authorities starting with the President of the Republic, the Presidents of the Chambers, the other institutional authorities, together with the Head of Government bear witness to the supportive presence of the entire Italian nation. Also, I mean especially, present are those responsible for this region, province and city, some of whom are mourning their relatives and their kin in these coffins. There are the volunteers of so many associations: from every part of Italy, men and women from the Army, the Civil defence, the Red Cross, the Fire Brigade. How can we fail to remember one of them, Marco Cavagna, the fireman-father from Treviolo who came from Bergamo and had a heart-attack here while he was trying to save so many lives! Here is the Pastor of this Church and his priests who share with you the plight of having been stripped of everything. There are so many Pastors of the neighbouring Churches. The whole of Italy is gathered in spirit, in your city and in the villages which have experienced other difficult times in their history, which even in this difficult trial has shown how strong the values of solidarity and brotherhood are that characterize our Italy. Beside you, dear brothers and sisters, is the Holy Father Benedict XVI; from the very outset he has not ceased to pray for you and today has wished to make himself especially close, as well as with my presence and that of his Private Secretary, also with the Message we have heard.

We bow before the indecipherable enigma of death. Yet death is also a precious opportunity for understanding what the value and true meaning of life are. Death makes tangible the fact that everything can cease in an instant things and projects. Everything ends; only love endures, as an elderly female teacher said to me this morning in a field hospital. Only love endures and triumphs over everything. Only God who is Love endures. At this time of sorrow and deep distress, it is the word of God that supports and comforts us, assuring us that nothing can annul the power of love. Nothing can prevail against it.

To keep us united on our journey towards Eternity is the consolation that comes to us from faith, that sweet relief that the encounter with the Man of the Cross brings for us, that loving closeness to all the crucified figures in history who are awaiting the inauguration of the Heavenly Jerusalem where all things will recover their original beauty, where tears will be wiped away and where "death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away" (cf. Rv 21). I am thinking of all this and I feel hope reborn in my heart because there is a feeling in the air that beneath the rubble is the will to start out anew, to rebuild, to return to planning and dreaming. The Prophet Isaiah wrote: one day "they shall build up the ancient ruins, they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities" (Is 61: 4) the city of L'Aquila, like the city of Avezzano and the other towns. And you will return with greater strength, with greater courage, to restore life to these places with the power and mental dignity that distinguish you.

Today, on Good Friday, the whole Church is weeping for her Crucified King. After that cry from the Cross "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Mk 15: 34) there was silence. It was a long and wearing silence, full of doubts and anguish: the silence of man permeated by suffering before the silence of God. God may seem absent, sorrow can appear a brute force and meaningless, tears dim the eyes and also seem to obscure even the most timid rays of Spring sunshine. Yet it is precisely while the taunting question arises "Where is your God" (Ps 42[41]: 3) that we feel emerging from the depths the certainty of God's loving intervention that becomes heart, hands help constant help, present help. Ours is a God who has a passion for man; a God who suffers with us and for us; a God who chooses silence to find a home in the arms of those who, suffering, strive to keep the torch of hope alight.

Dear brothers and sisters, after the silence of this Triduum that so deeply calls us into question and comforts us, the day after tomorrow we shall be celebrating Easter. It will be your Easter, an unforgettable Easter, but an Easter that will be reborn once again from the rubble of a people tried many a time in its history. And it will be like being born a second time, listening to the words of the Easter Angel: "Do not be afraid; for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has risen, as he said" (Mt 28: 5).

Let us therefore continue the journey, brothers and sisters, together with Mary. Let us bear together the suffering of the irremediable absence of the deceased, with a more assiduous, brotherly and friendly presence in your families, which have become even more authentically our families, in the great family of God's children. Thanks to the motherly help of Our Lady we shall seek to draw from death a lesson of authentic Christian life. And supported by her intercession, we shall not fear difficulties although they stand before us. May she, the Star of Hope, help us to keep on trusting firmly in God and in ourselves, certain that one day we shall also see again our dear departed who have gone before us in the race to Heaven. Let us repeat for them the prayer we have so often recited: "Eternal rest grant to them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May their souls rest in peace. Amen".