VATICAN CITY (CNS): All men must apologise for and rectify cultural and “pseudo-religious” prejudices and acts of violence against women, the preacher of the papal house-hold said.
In his homily during the Good Friday liturgy of the Lord’s passion in St Peter’s Basilica on April 2, Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa focused on the Christian response to violence.
At the service, presided ov-er by Pope Benedict XVI, Fr Cantalamessa said he did not want to talk about priestly sexual abuse and the scandal it has provoked, but he did so at the end of his homily.
Fr Cantalamessa mentioned recent criticism of the Church, the Pope and Catholics around the world.
While he did not specifically mention the issue of sexual abuse, it was obvious he was referring to the increase in criticism, especially in the media, of how the Church and Pope Benedict have handled past cases of priestly sexual abuse.
Fr Cantalamessa read a portion of a letter from an unnamed Jewish friend, who, the priest said, like many Jewish people, “knows from experience what it means to be victims of collective violence”.
The letter condemned: attacks against the Church, the Pope and the faithful; the use of stereotypes; and turning individual responsibilities and wrongdoings into a form of collective guilt, saying the current situation reminded the Jewish author of “the most shameful aspects of anti-Semitism”.
In the main portion of his homily, Fr Cantalamessa denounced continued violence and brutality in the world, calling it “an archaic leftover, a regression to primitive times”.
He listed some modern forms of violence including bullying in schools and violence in films, video games and the media.
“However, there is a form of violence that is even more serious and widespread than that by young people in sports stadiums and (violent demonstrations) in public squares. I am not speaking here of violence against children, concerning which even some members of clergy are wretchedly guilty,” he said.
Fr Cantalamessa said, “I am talking about violence against women”, adding that there was already “sufficient talk outside of here” concerning the sexual abuse of minors by priests.
Abused women “find themselves desperately alone and defenceless. Only today, thanks to the support and encouragement of so many associations and institutions, some find the strength to come out in the open and denounce the guilty”, he said.
Violence against women is particularly serious as it often happens hidden inside homes, unknown to others; and the brutality is even justified “with pseudo-religious and cultural prejudices”, he said.
When God admonished Eve after the fall in the Garden of Eden and said that her husband “shall be your master”, Fr Cantalamessa said God’s words were “a bitter prediction, not authorisation” or consent of aggression.
When God created men, he did not give them “the right to get angry and bang your fists on the table over every little thing”, he said.
He recalled how Pope John Paul II established a practice of asking forgiveness for collective wrongs. Of the collective pardons that should be made, one of “the most just and necessary is the pardon that half of humanity must ask for from the other half – men to women”, he said.
These apologies must not be “generic or abstract”, but must lead to real conversion and concrete gestures of reconciliation within families and society, he said.
Fr Cantalamessa said Christ’s passion and crucifixion were signs that violence has been conquered and that it has been overcome with “a new kind of victory that does not consist in making victims, but in making oneself a victim”.
Pope Benedict began the liturgy by kneeling in front of the altar in silent prayer.
After Fr Cantalamessa’s sermon he slowly untied a red cloth to reveal the crucified Christ on a large wooden cross that he held up for adoration.
He then removed his shoes to kneel before and venerate the cross in front of the altar.
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