VATICAN CITY, 21 APRIL 2011 (VIS) At 9:30 today, Holy Thursday, in the Vatican basilica, the Pope celebrated the Chrism Mass, which is celebrated today in all cathedrals around the world. The cardinals, bishops and priests gathered in Rome concelebrated with the Holy Father. The homily was followed by the renewal of priestly vows and the blessing of the oils of catechumens, for anointing the sick, and of Chrism.

In his homily, the Holy Father explained that three oils are blessed in the liturgy of Holy Thursday … The oil of catechumens “indicates a first way of being touched by Christ and by His Spirit – an inner touch, by which the Lord draws people close to himself. … God loves us. He comes to meet the unrest of our hearts … Knowledge of God is never exhausted. … Let us remain constantly on a journey towards him, longing for him, always open to receive new knowledge and love!”.

Then referring to the oil for anointing the sick, Benedict XVI commented that “healing is one of the fundamental tasks entrusted by Jesus to the Church … the first and fundamental healing takes place in our encounter with Christ who reconciles us to God and mends our broken hearts. But over and above this central task, the Church’s essential mission also includes the specific healing of sickness and suffering”.

“In third place”, he continued, “is the most noble of the ecclesial oils, the chrism … this oil serves chiefly for the anointing of confirmation and ordination. … Baptism and confirmation are an initiation into this People of God that spans the world; the anointing that takes place in baptism and confirmation is an anointing that confers this priestly ministry towards mankind. Christians are a priestly people for the world. Christians should make the living God visible to the world, they should bear witness to him and lead people towards him. … Have not we – the People of God – become to a large extent a people of unbelief and distance from God? Is it perhaps the case that the West, the heartlands of Christianity, are tired of their faith, bored by their history and culture, and no longer wish to know faith in Jesus Christ?”

He concluded, “For all the shame we feel over our failings, we must not forget that today too there are radiant examples of faith, people who give hope to the world through their faith and love. When Pope John Paul II is beatified on 1 May, we shall think of him, with hearts full of thankfulness, as a great witness to God and to Jesus Christ in our day, as a man filled with the Holy Spirit”.

At 5:30 pm, Benedict XVI concelebrated the Mass of the Lord’s Supper at the basilica of St. John Lateran. In imitation of the Lord’s gesture towards the Apostles, the Pope washed the feet of twelve priests. During the presentation of gifts, the Pope was presented with an offering to the victims of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

In his homily the Pope commented on the words of Jesus at the Last Supper: “In his heart he awaited the moment when he would give himself to his own under the appearance of bread and wine … Jesus desires us, he awaits us. But what about ourselves?” he asked. “Do we really desire him? Are we anxious to meet him? Do we desire to encounter him, to become one with him, to receive the gifts he offers us in the Holy Eucharist? Or are we indifferent, distracted, busy about other things?”

The Holy Father commented on one of the prayers Jesus made to the Father during the Last Supper: “the prayer for unity … Christian unity can exist only if Christians are deeply united to Him, to Jesus”.

The Pope emphasised that “with the Eucharist, the Church is born” and indicated that “the Eucharist is the sacrament of unity. It reaches the very mystery of the Trinity and thus creates visible unity”.

Benedict XVI recalled that “Jesus prays for the faith of Peter and his successors … Jesus tells Peter beforehand of his coming betrayal and conversion”. In this respect he highlighted that “we too, all of us, need to learn again to accept God and Jesus Christ as he is, and not the way we want him to be. We too find it hard to accept that he bound himself to the limitations of his Church and her ministers”.

“All of us need the conversion which enables us to accept Jesus in his reality as God and man. We need the humility of the disciple who follows the will of his Master. Tonight we want to ask Jesus to look to us, as with kindly eyes he looked to Peter when the time was right, and to convert us”.

“The ministry of unity has its visible place in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. Dear friends, it is a great consolation for the Pope to know that at each Eucharistic celebration everyone prays for him, and that our prayer is joined to the Lord’s prayer for Peter. Only by the prayer of the Lord and of the Church can the Pope fulfill his task of strengthening his brethren – of feeding the flock of Christ and of becoming the guarantor of that unity which becomes a visible witness to the mission which Jesus received from the Father”.

BXVI-HOLY WEEK/                                                            VIS 20110427 (920)