Papal preacher: Passion continues today as world ignores persecution

By Carol Glatz
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Widespread indifference to the violent persecution of Christians and other communities suggests the world is full of Pontius Pilates who eagerly wash their hands of all responsibility, the papal preacher said.

How many times the world witnesses other examples of "ecce homo" — "behold the man" with so many "prisoners that find themselves in the same situation as Jesus in Pilate’s Pretorium: alone, shackled, tortured, at the mercy of rough soldiers filled with hate," Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa said during the Liturgy of the Lord’s Passion.

"Jesus is in agony until the end of the world in every man and woman who is subjected to his same torments" he said in his homily during the April 3 service in St. Peter’s Basilica.

Presided over by Pope Francis, the service commemorates Christ’s death on the cross.

Following tradition, the homily was delivered by Father Cantalamessa, preacher of the papal household.

He said the continued carnage in the world, including "homicidal violence" against Christians and others shows the continued cruelty of which humanity is capable.

The Capuchin priest recalled that one Italian commentator had "the courage to denounce the disturbing indifference of world institutions and public opinion" concerning the current wave of people being persecuted for their faith.

"All of us — organizations and people of the western world — risk being Pilates who wash their hands," he said.

"The problem of violence plagues us, shocks us as it has invented new and frightening forms of cruelty and barbarity today," he said.

Even though critics may point to Old Testament accounts of aggression, Christianity insists that no one can kill in the name of God, he added.

"Jesus overcame violence not by opposing it with greater violence but by enduring it and exposing all its injustice and futility."

Christ — victor because victim — ushered in a new kind of victory that definitively conquered evil, he said.

The reason violence and death were tolerated by God in the Old Testament, he said, can be found in Jesus’ response to the Pharisees concerning why Moses allowed divorce even though what God has joined together, no human being must separate.

Jesus said concessions had been made, not to the law, but "because of the hardness of your hearts." God tolerated polygamy, divorce and other things while guiding sinning people along a lengthy path towards a new "creation" with a new Adam in Christ to restore God’s original plan, the priest said.

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