We need to heed every word of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI as if from God Himself.
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Love and thanks,
By Simon Caldwell
Last updated at 3:22 PM on 10th April 2009
Good Friday address: Pope Benedict will warn that religious sentiments are increasingly being held up to ridicule in the West
Pope Benedict XVI will tonight attack the rise of aggressive secularism in western societies, warning them that they risked drifting into a ‘desert of godlessness’.
The Bavarian-born Pontiff will use his Good Friday meditations to compare deliberate attempts to purge religion from public life to the mockery of Jesus Christ by the mob as he was led out to be crucified.
He will say said that ‘religious sentiments’ were increasingly ranked among the ‘unwelcome leftovers of antiquity’ and held up to scorn and ridicule.
‘We are shocked to see to what levels of brutality human beings can sink,’ he will tell the congregation as he meditates on the stations of the cross at an evening ceremony at the Coliseum, Rome.
‘Jesus is humiliated in new ways even today – when things that are most holy and profound in the faith are being trivialised, the sense of the sacred is allowed to erode,’ he will say.
‘Everything in public life risks being desacralised – persons, places, pledges, prayers, practices, words, sacred writings, religious formulae, symbols, ceremonies. Our life together is being increasingly secularised.
‘Religious life grows diffident. Thus we see the most momentous matters placed among trifles, and trivialities glorified.
‘Values and norms that held societies together and drew people to higher ideals are laughed at and thrown overboard. Jesus continues to be ridiculed.’
The Pope, who turns 82 later this month, will pray that Christians would respond to the problem by growing in faith.
‘May we never question or mock serious things in life like a cynic,’ he will say.
‘Allow us not to drift into the desert of godlessness. Enable us to perceive you in the gentle breeze, see you in street corners, love you in the unborn child.’
On the station that marks the passage in the Gospel where Jesus met the women of Jerusalemon the way to be crucified, the Pope will also condemn the oppression of women, saying there were ‘many societies in the world where women fail to receive a fair deal’.
Photo caption: Pope Benedict XVI dries a priest’s foot during the feet washing ceremony on Holy Thursday at the Basilica of St. John Laterane
‘Christ must be weeping for them,’ the Pope will claim.
He will add: ‘There are societies too that are thoughtless about their future. Christ must be weeping for their children.
‘Wherever there is unconcern for the future, through the overuse of resources, the degradation of the environment, the oppression of women, the neglect of family values, the ignoring of ethical norms, the abandonment of religious traditions, Jesus must be telling people: “Do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves”.’
The Stations of the Cross are traditionally performed by the Pope at the amphitheatre where thousands of early Christians died as martyrs during persecutions ordered by the Roman emperors.
During the ceremony, the Pope will stop at each of the 14 stations – which represent the sequence of events between Jesus’s ‘agony’ in the Gardenof Gethsemane to his crucifixion and burial – where he will read out a meditation.
The Good Friday meditations generally reflect on the evil in the world on the day that the Church commemorates the suffering and death of Christ.
On Easter Sunday, the Pope’s Urbi et Orbi (to the City and to the World) message is of a completely different tone, reflecting his hope and joy in the risen and triumphant saviour.
The Good Friday meditations for this year were written for Pope Benedict by Thomas Menamparampil, the Archbishop of Guwahati, India.
Many reflect on the problems faced by the Church in the Middle East and Asia, where persecution in Iraq, for instance, has forced half of the Christian population to flee the country, and in India where anti-Christian riots in the state of Orissa last autumn led to thousands of families seeking sanctuary in refugee camps.
The comments on secularism refer pointedly, however, to the rise of an intolerant form of secularism in the West, which seeks to purge traditionally Christian societies of their religious character.
In Britain this has led to legal battles between employers and Christians suspended or sacked for expressing their religious convictions or simply wearing religious jewellery such as crucifixes.
Publicly-funded church schools, adoption agencies and even hospital chaplains have come under attack while the Government has given taxpayers’ money to groups that promote atheism.