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 CNS Story:

POPE-AUDIENCE Feb-8-2012 (440 words) With photos. xxxi

Though prayers may seem unheard, God never abandons people, pope says

Pope Benedict XVI waves as he leaves his general audience at the Vatican Feb 8. (CNS/Paul Haring)

By Mary Shovlain
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- God is near even though it may seem like he does not hear people's prayers or has abandoned his flock, Pope Benedict XVI said.

"Faced with difficult and painful situations, when God seems to not hear us, we must not be afraid to give him all of the weight we carry in our heart, we should not be afraid to cry out to him about our suffering," he said.

Speaking at his weekly general audience Feb. 8, Pope Benedict continued his catechesis on prayer by highlighting Christ's prayer from the cross, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

Jesus' cry to the Father from the cross was not immediately understood by those nearby, the pope explained. Some thought he was calling Elijah, asking him to prolong his life, but Jesus was quoting Psalm 22, which affirms God's presence amid his people, the pope said.

"Jesus is praying this psalm with the awareness of the Father's presence," he continued. "Many ask how this omnipotent God could not intervene to spare his own Son?" Because Jesus' cry is not one for help, he said, but rather a prayer for his people and all peoples.

Pope Benedict said that while most people focus on Christ's passion from noon to 3 p.m., St. Mark writes that Christ's time on the cross began three hours earlier, at 9 a.m., when he was nailed to the cross.

Pope Benedict drew a distinction between the first three hours and the second three. Christ's first three hours on the cross, he said, were marked by the delusion of those present: passersby deriding him, and even those crucified with him insulting him. The second three hours that Christ spent on the cross were instead characterized by silence and darkness, he continued.

"The darkness enveloped people and things, but even in these moments of darkness God is present," the pope said. In the Bible darkness, he said, "is a sign of the presence and action of evil" but it can also serve to express a mysterious divine action." And it would be out of this darkness, he said, that "Christ would emerge to bring life through his act of love."

At the end of the audience, in his address to pilgrims present in Paul VI hall, Pope Benedict mentioned the recent wave of extreme cold that has been gripping Europe for the past few weeks, causing some 40 deaths in Italy alone and leaving hundreds of thousands without power. He encouraged the faithful to pray for the victims and to show solidarity "to those suffering from these tragic events."

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Editor's Note: The text of the pope's audience remarks in English is posted online at: www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/audiences/2012/documents/hf_ben-xvi_aud_20120208_en.html.

The text of the pope's audience remarks in Spanish is posted online at: www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/audiences/2012/documents/hf_ben-xvi_aud_20120208_sp.html.


Copyright (c) 2012 Catholic News Service/USCCB. All rights reserved.
This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed.
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