Vatican City (AsiaNews) The Cross, the centre of Church life and the centre of the celebrations of the Passion of our Lord at the beginning of Holy Week "can scare us, people of our time . . . who tend to see in suffering something useless and harmful". But "the Cross of Jesus neither depresses nor weakens"; on the contrary, "new energies come from it, energies that shine in the deeds of the Saints who have made the history of the Church fruitful, energies that can be clearly seen in the tired face of the Holy Father".
So spoke Card Camillo Ruini about the mystery of the Passion of Jesus which is at the heart of today's Palm Sunday celebrations, a day that evokes the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem acclaimed as the Messiah and the King of Peace.
Traditionally, during previous years of the Pope's 26-year pontificate, this day was also a time for meeting young people in preparation of the coming World Youth Day. However, for the first time, John Paul II could not directly take part because of his illness.
The window of the his study overlooking St Peter's Square was left open, curtains closed, decorated with a braided palm frond and the crimson papal banner, waiting for the Pope to appear to greet and bless the crowd.
John Paul II has played an important role in the growth of World Youth Day, which this year will celebrate its 20th edition in the German city of Cologne in mid-August. He has always supported the event and attended it and in so doing has forged a strong tie to the youth of the world.
Among the 40,000 people who today jam-packed St Peter's Square, most were young holding palm branches with azure, crimson and white banners.
Cardinal Ruini spoke of the Pope's suffering as something fruitful for the Church, an experience that is linked to the Cross of Jesus, something to encourage the young to find comfort in it.
"In the Cross of Christ," the Cardinal said, "the image of God does not lose its greatness and mystery; instead, it becomes extraordinarily close and friendly because it is that of the One, who, through his own Son, shares completely the darkest side of the human condition".
For this reason, the Cross of Christ emanates strength and hope in the redemptive quality of human suffering. The drama and mystery of suffering, which are the drama and mystery of our lives, are therefore not eliminated but appear to us as something obscure and senseless".
"The Cross," said the Cardinal Vicar of Rome, "reveals the 'unreliability of the heart of man', which can betray the Lord, and erases our pretensions 'to build a just and perfect world' with our own hands".
The Cross also reveals that to be effective in this world one must give oneself to the Lord.
"Dear brothers and sisters," Card Ruini said at the end, "let us put our trust in the Lord who was crucified and who is risen. Let us commend our lives in His hands as he did His in the hands of the Lord, His Father (cf Lk, 23: 46)". (BC)