THE KINGDOM OF CHRIST CANNOT BE BUILT BY FORCE
VIS REPORTS: VATICAN CITY, 26 OCT 2011 (VIS) - Because of the rain, the Holy Father presided over this morning's celebration of the Word in the Paul VI Hall, rather than in St. Peter's Square as had been scheduled. The celebration of the Word took the place of the usual general audience, in view of the event due to take place tomorrow in the Italian town of Assisi: "Day of Reflection, Dialogue and Prayer for Peace and Justice in the World: Pilgrims of Truth, Pilgrims of Peace". Before the celebration this morning, the Holy Father greeted pilgrims gathered in the Vatican Basilica who had been unable to find space in the Paul VI Hall. (IMAGE SOURCE: RADIO VATICANA)
Following a greeting from Cardinal Agostino Vallini, the Pope's vicar general for the diocese of Rome, and the readings from the Bible, the Holy Father pronounced his homily.
"As Christians", he said, "we are convinced that prayer is the most precious contribution we can make to the cause of peace. For this reason we, the Church of Rome and pilgrims from elsewhere, are gathered here today to listen to the Word of God and to invoke the gift of peace".
The Pope then quoted from the reading from the Prophet Zechariah, in which God promises salvation through a king. "But the announcement does not refer to a king with human powers and force of arms", he explained. "It does not refer to a king who dominates with political and military might. This is a gentle king who reigns with humility and gentleness before God and man, a king quite different from the great sovereigns of the earth".
The Apostles recalled the prophet's words particularly "following Christ's passion, death and resurrection when, ... with the eyes of faith, they reconsidered their Master's joyful entry into the Holy City. He rode a donkey which had been lent to Him, ... not a horse as the powerful did. He did not enter Jerusalem accompanied by a mighty army of chariots and horsemen. He is a poor king, the king of the poor of God, ... of those who have inner freedom enabling them to overcome the greed and selfishness of the world, of those who know that God alone is their treasure. ... He is a king who will make the chariots and steeds of battle disappear, who will break the weapons of war, a king who brought peace on the Cross, uniting heaven and earth and building a bridge between all mankind. The Cross is the new arch of peace, the sign and instrument of reconciliation, ... the sign that love is stronger that any form of violence or oppression, stronger than death. Evil is overcome through goodness, through love".
"The kingdom that Christ inaugurates is universal. The horizon of this poor and meek king is not the territorial horizon of a State, it is the confines of the world. He creates communion, He creates unity. And where do we see His announcement take concrete form today? In the great network of Eucharistic communities covering the earth, wherein the prophecy of Zechariah re-emerges in splendour. ... Everywhere, in all cultures, ... He comes and is present; and by entering into communion with Him, mankind is united into a single body, overcoming divisions, rivalry and rancour. The Lord comes in the Eucharist to divest us of our selfishness, our fixations which exclude others, to make us a single body, a single kingdom of peace in a divided world.
"And yet", the Holy Father added, "how can we build this kingdom of peace in which Christ is king? ... Like Jesus, the messengers of peace of His kingdom must begin a journey. ...They must journey, but not with the might of war or the force of power. ... It is not with power, force or violence that Christ's kingdom of peace grows, but with the giving of self, with love carried to its extreme consequences, even towards out enemies. Jesus does not conquer the world by force of arms but by the power of the Cross, which is the true guarantee of victory".
Continuing his homily, Benedict XVI mentioned the statues of Sts. Peter and Paul which stand in front of the Vatican Basilica. St. Peter holds the keys and St. Paul a sword, "the weapon with which he suffered martyrdom, with which his blood was spilt", said the Pope. St. Paul "dedicated his life to transmitting the Gospel's message of reconciliation and peace, using his every energy to ensure it reached the ends of the earth. His strength lay in the fact that he did not seek a quiet life, ... free from difficulties and setbacks. Rather, he was consumed by the Gospel, he gave all of himself without reserve, and thus became the great messenger of peace and reconciliation in Christ. The sword St. Paul holds in his hand also recalls the power of truth, which can sometimes wound and inflict pain, The Apostle remained faithful to this truth unto the end, ... he gave his life for it. The same logic holds true for us, if we wish to bring the kingdom of peace announced by the Prophet Zechariah and achieved by Christ: we must be ready to pay in person, to suffer ... misunderstanding, rejection and persecution. It is not the sword of the conqueror that builds peace, but the sword of those who suffer and give up their own lives".
The Holy Father concluded: "As Christians, we wish to invoke the gift of peace from God, we wish to pray that He might make us instruments of His peace in a world still torn apart by hatred, division, selfishness and wars, we wish to ask him that tomorrow's meeting in Assisi might favour dialogue between people from different religions, and bring a ray of light to illuminate the minds and hearts of all men and women; that rancour may give way to forgiveness, division to reconciliation, hatred to love, violence to humility, and that peace may reign in the world".
VATICAN CITY, 26 OCT 2011 (VIS) - This morning's general audience in the form of a celebration of the Word, which was to have taken place in St. Peter's Square, was moved to the Paul VI Hall because of rain. One group of pilgrims, unable to find space in the Paul VI Hall, gathered in the Vatican Basilica where the Holy Father went to greet them before the audience began. "I ask you to accompany me in prayer as I journey tomorrow to Assisi for the celebration of the Day of Reflection, Dialogue and Prayer for Peace and Justice in the World, together with representatives of different religions", he said speaking English. Switching to French he expressed the hope that "this pilgrimage for truth and peace may help us to march towards God together, and to reinforce our commitment to serve peace".
At the end of the celebration of the Word in the Paul VI Hall, Benedict XVI addressed the young, the sick and newlyweds. "May the example of St,. Francis of Assisi, over whose tomb I will pray tomorrow, support you, dear young people, in your daily commitment to Christ", he said. "May it encourage you, dear sick people, always to follow the example of Jesus in your trials and suffering; and may it help you, dear newlyweds, to make your family a place of constant encounter with the love of God and of our fellows".
VATICAN CITY, 26 OCT 2011 (VIS) - Having greeted the pilgrims who attended this morning's celebration of the Word, Benedict XVI launched an appeal for victims of the recent earthquake inTurkey. "At this time", he said, "our thoughts go out to the people of Turkey, who have been so severely affected by the earthquake which caused grave loss of human life, leaving many missing and causing great damage. I invite you to join me in prayer for the people who have lost their lives, and to remain spiritually close to those who have been so sorely tried. May Almighty God support everyone involved in rescue efforts".