VATICAN CITY (CNS) — As Pope Francis presided over the Liturgy of the Lord’s Passion, the preacher of the papal household called on bishops and all Catholics to examine their consciences for ways they may be harming the unity of the Catholic Church.
Pope Francis presided over the liturgy April 2 at the Altar of the Chair in St. Peter’s Basilica, but as is customary, the preacher of the papal household, Cardinal Raniero Cantalamessa, gave the homily as the pope and more than two dozen cardinals listened.
“Fraternity among Catholics is wounded,” the cardinal said. “Divisions between churches have torn Christ’s tunic to shreds, and worse still, each shredded strip has been cut up into even smaller snippets.”
With only about 150 people present because of COVID-19 restrictions, Cardinal Cantalamessa clarified that he was speaking “of the human element of it, because no one will ever be able to tear the true tunic of Christ, his mystical body animated by the Holy Spirit. In God’s eyes, the church is ‘one, holy, catholic and apostolic’ and will remain so until the end of the world.”
God’s protection of the Catholic Church, he said, “does not excuse our divisions,” but makes them even more worthy of condemnation and should inspire greater efforts to heal the divisions.
“The most common cause of the bitter divisions among Catholics,” the 86-year-old cardinal said, “is not dogma, nor is it the sacraments and ministries — none of the things that by God’s singular grace we fully and universally preserve.”
Instead, he said, “the divisions that polarize Catholics stem from political options that grow into ideologies taking priority over religious and ecclesial considerations and leading to complete abandonment of the value and the duty of obedience in the church.”
“This is sin in its primal meaning,” said Cardinal Cantalamessa, who was appointed preacher of the papal household in 1980 by St. John Paul II and has served in the role since.
When support for political candidates, parties or policies are given priority over building up the kingdom of God and the unity of his body, the church, it is time for “a serious examination of conscience” and conversion, he said.
“Fomenting division is the work par excellence of the one whose name is ‘diabolos’ that is, the divider, the enemy who sows weeds, as Jesus referred to him in the parable” in Matthew’s Gospel.
Catholic bishops and priests “need to be the first to make a serious examination of conscience,” the cardinal said. “They need to ask themselves where it is that they are leading their flocks — to their position or Jesus’ position.”
The Catholic Church is called to be a force for the unity of all Christians, he said, and so Catholics must pray and work for the peace and unity Jesus willed for his disciples.
The liturgy began with Pope Francis, assisted by two monsignors, prostrating himself on the floor of the basilica before the altar. Later, after the reading of the Passion according to St. John, the pope also led the adoration of the cross.
Just a few hours after the evening liturgy, the pope was scheduled to preside over the Stations of the Cross in St. Peter’s Square. The meditations for the service were written by children and adolescents and reflect on the crosses many children in the world bear, especially during the coronavirus pandemic.
Join the CatholicPhilly.com family
CatholicPhilly.com works to strengthen the connections between people, families and communities every day by delivering the news people need to know about the Catholic Church, especially in the Philadelphia region, and the world in which we live.
By your donation in any amount, you and hundreds of other people become part of our mission to inform, form in the Catholic faith and inspire the thousands of readers who visit every month.
Here is how you can help:
- A $100 gift allows us to present award-winning photos of Catholic life in our neighborhoods.
- A $50 gift enables us to cover a news event in a local parish, school or Catholic institution.
- A $20 gift lets us obtain solid faith formation resources that can deepen your spirituality and knowledge of the faith.
- A small, automated monthly donation means you can support us continually and easily.
Won't you consider making a gift today?
Please join in the church's vital mission of communications by offering a gift in whatever amount that you can ― a single gift of $40, $50, $100, or more, or a monthly donation. Your gift will strengthen the fabric of our entire Catholic community and sustain CatholicPhilly.com as your trusted news source. Thank you in advance!
Make your donation by credit card here:
Or make your donation by check:
222 N. 17th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103