Father Cantalamessa Stresses Defense of Victims

Affirms Solidarity With Jews Under Persecution

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VATICAN CITY, APRIL 2, 2010 (Zenit.org).- From the cross, Christ teaches those caught up in a violent world to defend the weak and victimized, says the preacher of the Pontifical Household.



Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa stated this today in his homily at the Celebration of the Passion of the Lord, presided over by Benedict XVI in St. Peter's Basilica.

By his passion and death, the preacher noted, Jesus "unmasks and breaks the mechanism of the scapegoat that makes violence sacred, making himself the victim of all violence."

"It is no longer man that offers sacrifices to God, but God who 'sacrifices' himself for man, consigning for him to death his Only-begotten Son," he affirmed.

Thus, the priest noted, "sacrifice no longer serves to 'placate' the divinity, but rather to placate man and to make him desist from his hostility toward God and his neighbor."
 
He affirmed that "the sacrifice of Christ contains a formidable message for today's world."

The Capuchin explained: "It cries out to the world that violence is an archaic residue, a regression to primitive stages and surmounted by human history and -- if it is a question of believers -- a culpable and scandalous delay in becoming aware of the leap in quality operated by Christ.
 
"It reminds also that violence is losing. In almost all ancient myths the victim is the defeated and the executioner the victor.

"Jesus changed the sign of victory. He inaugurated a new kind of victory that does not consist in making victims, but in making himself victim."

Scapegoat

"The modern value of the defense of victims, of the weak and of threatened life is born in the terrain of Christianity," he said. "It is a later fruit of the revolution carried out by Christ."

Father Cantalamessa observed, "Unfortunately, however, the same culture of today that condemns violence, on the other hand, favors and exalts it."

"The pleasure with which one indulges in the description of violence and the competition of the one who is first and the most crude in describing it do no more than favor it," he said. "The result is not a catharsis of evil, but an incitement to it."

The priest mentioned, for example, a type of "herd psychology," which "leads to the choice of the scapegoat" in order to find a in the "struggle against a common enemy -- in general, the weakest element, the different one -- a proper artificial and momentous cohesion."

"We have an example in the recurrent violence of youth in the stadium, in the bullying in schools and in certain square manifestations that leave behind destruction and debris," he said.

The preacher noted that "a generation of youth that has had the very rare privilege of not knowing a real war and of never having been called to arms, amuses itself (because it is about a game, even if stupid and at times tragic) to invent little wars, driven by the same instinct that moved the primordial horde."

Passover

Father Cantalamessa ended his homily with the observation that "by a rare coincidence, this year our Easter falls on the same week of the Jewish Passover."

He directed his thoughts to "our Jewish brothers," who "know from experience what it means to be victims of collective violence, and also because of this they are quick to recognize the recurring symptoms."

The priest shared with his listeners the words of a Jewish friend, who sent a letter this week stating his "indignation" regarding the recent "violent and concentric attacks against the Church, the Pope and all the faithful by the whole world."

"The use of stereotypes, the passing from personal responsibility and guilt to a collective guilt remind me of the more shameful aspects of anti-Semitism," the preacher's friend affirmed.

His letter continued: "Therefore I desire to express to you personally, to the Pope and to the whole Church my solidarity as a Jew of dialogue and of all those that in the Jewish world (and there are many) share these sentiments of brotherhood.

"Our Passover and yours undoubtedly have different elements, but we both live with Messianic hope that surely will reunite us in the love of our common Father. I wish you and all Catholics a Good Easter."

Father Cantalamessa concluded, "And also we Catholics wish our Jewish brothers a Good Passover."

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Full text: www.zenit.org/article-28840?l=english