Cross shows true love does not exist without suffering, pope says
By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY (CNS)—God's love poured out on humanity through the cross of Jesus offers healing and salvation to all people, Pope Benedict XVI said.
At his Sept. 17 weekly general audience, the pope reflected on his Sept. 12-15 trip to France, which he said had brought him many blessings.
"By a happy coincidence," he said, Sept. 14 when he visited the Marian sanctuaries at Lourdes was the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, "the sign of hope par excellence because it is the testimony of maximum love."
"In Lourdes, at the school of Mary, the first and perfect disciple of the crucified one, pilgrims learn to consider the crosses of their lives in the light of the glorious cross of Christ," he said.
Pope Benedict told a packed Vatican audience hall: "The cross reminds us that true love does not exist without suffering; there is no gift of life without pain. Many learn that truth in Lourdes, which is a school of faith and hope because it also is a school of charity and of service to one's brothers and sisters."
He said that at his Sept. 15 Mass with the anointing of the sick at Lourdes, "I wanted to meditate on the tears of Mary at the foot of the cross and on her smile, which illuminates Easter morning."
By appearing to St. Bernadette Soubirous in Lourdes, he said, Mary "opened in the world a privileged place for encountering divine love, which heals and saves."
"In reality, we are all pilgrims" on earth, he said. "We need a mother to guide us. And at Lourdes, her smile invites us to move forward with great trust because God is good, God is love."
Pope Benedict said that by starting his trip in Paris, meeting government officials, cultural leaders, young people and religious, he had an opportunity to pay homage to the contributions of French Catholicism to European culture.
"It is interesting that it was precisely in that context that there matured the need for a healthy distinction between the political sphere and that of religion according to the famous saying of Jesus, 'Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's and unto God that which is God's,'" he said.
While Roman coins were stamped with the face of the Emperor Caesar, requiring a monetary tribute to him, the pope said, "in the heart of man there is the imprint of the creator, the one Lord of our life. Authentic secularism is not doing without the spiritual dimension, but knowing that it is the radical guarantee of our freedom."
The estimated 10,000 people who had free tickets to the pope's Sept. 17 audience could not all fit into the audience hall. Several hundred stood in the audience hall's parking lot and were treated to a snail's pace papal drive-by before the audience began.
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