In today's General Audience, the Holy Father explained the liturgical events from Holy Thursday through the Easter Vigil, the most important week of the year for Christians. In his greeting to Italian pilgrims at the end of the audience, he said that he will travel to the Abruzzi region as soon as possible to be with those people affected by Monday's earthquake. Zenit and Papa Ratzinger Forum have full English translations of the text.
The Vatican Press Office's Daily Bulletin has the original Italian text and summaries in several languages. Papa Ratzinger Forum has photos . Asia News has an article with quotations. Major news agencies, such as Reuters, reported the Pope's planned visit to Abruzzi.
Here is the press release about the audience from Vatican Information Service:
The Holy Father explained how Jesus "did not wish to use the fact of His being God, His glorious dignity and His power, as an instrument of triumph and a sign of distance" between Him and us.
"For love", the Pope continued, "He wished to 'empty Himself' and become our brother. For love He shared our condition, the condition of all men and women".
Benedict XVI then went on to explain that the Chrism Mass is "a prelude to the Easter Triduum which begins tomorrow". At that Mass "priestly vows pronounced on the day of Ordination are renewed". The ceremony "has particular significance this year because it comes as a kind of preparation for the Year for Priests, which I have called to mark the 150th anniversary of the death of the saintly 'Cure of Ars' and which will begin on 19 June. Also in the Chrism Mass the oil used for the sick and for catechumens will be blessed and the Chrism consecrated", he said.
During Holy Thursday Mass "in Coena Domini", the Church "commemorates the institution of the Eucharist, the priestly ministry and the new commandment ('mandatum novum') of charity which Jesus left to His disciples", the Pope explained. Holy Thursday, then, "is a renewed invitation to give thanks unto God for the supreme gift of the Eucharist, which must be welcomed with devotion and adored with living faith".
Good Friday, the Pope proceeded, is "the day of the passion and crucifixion of the Lord. ... Christ's death recalls the mass of pain and evil weighing upon humanity in every epoch: the crushing weight of our own mortality, the hatred and violence which still bloody the earth today. The Lord's passion continues in the suffering of mankind".
Yet, "if Good Friday is a day full of sadness, it is at the same time the best day on which to reawaken our faith, to strengthen our hope and the courage to carry our cross with humility and trust, abandoning ourselves to God in the certainty of His support and His victory".
Benedict XVI then highlighted how "this hope is nourished in the great silence of Easter Saturday as we await the resurrection of Jesus". On that day "the Church keeps prayerful vigil, like Mary and with Mary, sharing her feelings of pain and of trust in God. Rightly we are advised to spend the whole day in an atmosphere of prayer, one favourable to meditation and reconciliation. The faithful are encouraged to avail themselves of the Sacrament of Penance so that, thus renewed, they can participate in the Easter celebrations".
Referring then to the Easter vigil, "mother of all vigils", Benedict reminded people that "once again the victory of light over darkness, of life over death, will be proclaimed, and the Church will joy at the meeting with her Lord. Thus will we enter the atmosphere of Easter Day".
The Holy Father concluded by inviting the faithful "to enter into the Cenacle with the Virgin Mary, to stand with her at the foot of the cross, to watch over the dead Christ, hopefully awaiting the bright dawn day of resurrection".