Addressing tens of thousands of people who filled St. Peter's Square today at the start of Holy Week, the Pope highlighted the happiness brought by Christ dying on the cross, as opposed to the ephemeral promises of power made by a society obsessed with wealth.
"There was a time -- and it has not been totally surmounted -- in which Christianity was rejected precisely because of the cross," the Holy Father said during his homily.
He paraphrased those who have opposed the cross: "'The cross is a sign of the negation of life,' they said. 'We, however, want a full life, without restrictions and renunciations. We want to live, no more and no less.'"
"'We do not allow ourselves to be limited by precepts and prohibitions,' they said and continue to say. 'We want wealth and plentitude.'"
"All this seems convincing and attractive," said Benedict XVI. "It is the language of the serpent that says to us: 'Don't be frightened! Eat calmly from all the trees of the garden!'"
Youth Day symbol
The Pope said that Jesus, on entering Jerusalem on a donkey, leaves a message on Palm Sunday that goes against the current: "We do not attain life by seizing it, but by giving it."
"Love is the giving of ourselves and, for this reason, it is the path of authentic life symbolized by the cross," Benedict XVI stressed.
The day's Mass began with the blessing of palms and olive branches carried by the faithful.
At the end of the ceremony, a delegation of German youths from Cologne handed over the World Youth Day cross to a group of young Australians. It is the cross that Pope John Paul II entrusted to youth to be taken on pilgrimage across the world.
In this connection, Benedict XVI said that "from Cologne to Sydney, a journey begins across continents and cultures, a journey across a world lacerated and tormented by violence."
"It is the journey of him who, with the sign of the cross, gives us peace and makes us bearers of his peace," he added.
After thanking the youths who took the cross, "in which we can almost touch the mystery of Jesus," the Pope appealed to the faithful to open their hearts so that "following his cross, we become messengers of his love and peace."