By Cindy Wooden Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Benedict XVI asked Catholics to offer special prayers during Holy Week that their priests would be holy messengers of hope, reconciliation and peace.
During his weekly general audience March 31, the pope said the priests’ annual renewal of their vows was particularly significant during the Year for Priests, which ends in June.
In his remarks in Italian, French, English, German, Spanish and Portuguese, the pope highlighted the importance of the Holy Week chrism Mass, during which priests gather with their bishop to bless the oils used in the sacraments and to renew their priestly promises.
Most dioceses celebrate the chrism Mass Thursday morning during Holy Week. The pope, speaking in Spanish, invited people to keep the priests in their prayers.
“We pray that by growing each day in fidelity and love for Christ, they will be messengers of hope, reconciliation and peace in the midst of their brothers and sisters,” he said.
The pope did not mention the attention and concern caused by new revelations about clerical sex abuses cases in Europe and North America.
Speaking to an estimated 11,000 visitors gathered in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Benedict discussed each of the Holy Week liturgies. Among the visitors were 4,000 university students from around the world participating in a conference sponsored by Opus Dei.
The students gave the pope a letter, which they later distributed to reporters, offering him their support at a time when “many have taken advantage of some episodes that are painful for the church and for the pope” in order “to spread doubts and suspicion.”
In his main audience talk, the pope said the Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper marks the institution of the Eucharist and Christ giving the Twelve Apostles and their successors the authority to be ministers of the sacrament.
The rite of washing feet during the Mass, repeating Jesus’ gesture, “is the representation of Jesus’ whole life and reveals how he loved to the end with a love that was infinite and could bring men and women into communion with God and make them free,” he said.
The practice of placing the Eucharist on a special altar of repose at the end of Mass is meant to remind people of Jesus’ agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, he said. “Before the Eucharist, the faithful contemplate Jesus in his hour of solitude and pray that all the loneliness in the world would cease,” he said.
The Good Friday liturgy, he said, is a powerful reminder that Jesus willingly accepted “the cruelest and most humiliating form of death” — crucifixion — in order to save all men and women.
Holy Saturday is a day of silence and a time of waiting and hope, the pope said. It also should be a time for making a firm commitment to conversion and would be an appropriate time to go to confession, he said.
Saturday night, during the Easter Vigil, the silence that followed Jesus’ death is “broken by singing ‘Alleluia,’ which announces the resurrection of Christ and proclaims the victory of light over darkness and of life over death,” he said.
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Editor’s Note: The text of the pope’s audience remarks in English will be posted online at: http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/audiences/2010/documents/hf_ben-xvi_aud_20100331_en.html.
The text of the pope’s audience remarks in Spanish will be posted online at: http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/audiences/2010/documents/hf_ben-xvi_aud_20100331_sp.html.