The Pope in the Middle East on the day of the Cross


Today, the Middle East welcomed the Pope. The Holy Father landed in Beirut at the start of his three-day visit to the country of the cedars. The arrival of Benedict XVI coincides with one of the most important feasts in Christianity, the Exaltation of the Cross. This was recalled in the speech of the President of Lebanon, Michel Suleiman, to welcome the Pontiff, in which he spoke of the cross as a “symbol of absolute sacrifice, humility in the spirit and hope for the Resurrection.”

Not far from the Lebanese capital, the Jerusalem Church met at the same hour, on Calvary, to celebrate the liturgy for the Exaltation of the Cross. Local Christians, pilgrims and religious attended the Mass at which the Vicar of the Custody of the Holy Land, Fr. Artemio Vitores presided:

“The death of Christ on Calvary is undoubtedly the greatest sin ever committed by humanity … And yet, we believe that the Cross is the center and foundation of our faith. Peter says: ‘We have been freed from sin by the precious blood of Christ’.”

It is a feast that originated in Jerusalem, in 335 AD, with the dedication of the buildings erected by Constantine over the holy sites that include the Tomb of Christ and Calvary, while also commemorating the discovery of the True Cross at the hands of the Emperor’s mother, St. Helena.

In the basilica of the Holy Sepulchre, one can still visit the place where, according to tradition, this discovery was made and is commemorated every year in the month of May.

And it is right here, today as in ancient times, that the relics of the Cross are shown to the faithful … where every day so many Christians, Catholics and Orthodox, from every part of the world, kneel in front of the mystery of the Cross … indeed an instrument of suffering, but at the same time, as recalled by Benedict XVI during his visit to Cyprus in 2010, “the most eloquent symbol of hope that the world has ever seen.”

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