Pope’s Good Friday message warns of drift into a ‘desert of godlessness’

Increasingly secular Western societies risk drifting into a “desert of godlessness”, the Pope has warned in his Good Friday address.

From the Telegraph:

Speaking during the Way of the Cross procession at the Colosseum in Rome, Pope Benedict XVI said that “religious sentiments” were increasingly ranked among the “unwelcome leftovers of antiquity” and held up to scorn and ridicule.

He used this year’s Good Friday meditations at the Stations of the Cross to compare attempts to purge religion from public life to the mockery Jesus Christ faced from the mob as he was led out to be crucified.

The Bavarian-born Pontiff, who rarely shies from controversy, used uncompromising language as he attacked efforts to secularise society.

Speaking at the seventh Station of the Cross, where Jesus is made an “object of fun”, he said: “We are shocked to see to what levels of brutality human beings can sink. 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.

“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, prayed 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 prayed.

“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.”

The annual Good Friday procession at the Colosseum, where thousands of early Christians died as martyrs, tends to focus on the troubles facing the world.

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 on the day of the Resurrection.

The Pope’s Good Friday message this year came after several high-profile British cases in which Christians have been reprimanded by their public-sector employees for talking about their faith at work.

Caroline Petrie, 45, a nurse from Weston-super-Mare in Somerset, was suspended by an NHS trust last December after being reported by a carer for offering to pray for an elderly patient. North Somerset Primary Care Trust finally relented in February and reinstated her, but maintained Ms Petrie should not have offered to pray.

Jennie Cain, a receptionist at a Christian school was left facing dismissal for sending a private email asking for spiritual support after her five-year-old daughter was reprimanded for talking about hell.

New NHS guidelines state that doctors and nurses face harassment charges if they are accused of “preaching” to staff or patients, while a draft code of practice for teachers could be used by schools to discipline those who discuss their beliefs with pupils.

Such developments led Dr John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York, to proclaim in February that many Christians now “have the daily challenge of living by a set of values that the world thinks are mad”.

Last Sunday Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor also referred to the problem secularisation posed to Christians in his final letter to Catholic congregations as the Archbishop of Westminster.

He wrote: “We live in a very secular society that finds it difficult for people to hear and to experience the presence of God in their lives.”

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