April 14, 2006

Pope presides at Good Friday procession

By Philip Pullella

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Benedict on Friday led a Good
Friday procession and heard meditations lamenting a "diabolical
pride aimed at eliminating the family," an apparent reference
to gay marriage and abortion.

The 78-year-old Pope led the traditional Via Crucis (Way of
the Cross) procession around the ruins of Rome's ancient
Colosseum commemorating Christ's passion and death.

The 14 meditations, written by Italian Archbishop Angelo
Comastri and read aloud to the crowd by actors, painted a
picture of a bleak world threatened on all sides.

One of the meditations appeared to be a reference to
homosexual marriages and moves to give legal status to
unmarried couples.

"Surely God is deeply pained by the attack on the family,"
one of the meditations said. "Today we seem to be witnessing a
kind of anti-Genesis, a counter-plan, a diabolical pride aimed
at eliminating the family."

The Pope, wearing a red cape over this white cassock,
carried a wooden cross for part of the service around the
Colosseum as tens of thousands of people held candles on the
streets below.

Another meditation read by one of the actors appeared to be
a criticism of genetic manipulation and cloning, lamenting a
"move to re-invent mankind, to modify the very grammar of life
as planned and willed by God...a risky and dangerous venture."

Yet another meditation said the world had lost its sense of

"Today a slick campaign of propaganda is spreading an inane
apologia of evil, a senseless cult of Satan, a mindless desire
for transgression, a dishonest and frivolous freedom, exalting
impulsiveness, immorality and selfishness as if they were new
heights of sophistication," it said.

At the end of the procession, the Pope delivered brief,
unprepared remarks.

"In the mirror of the cross we saw all of the sufferings of
humanity today," he said.

"We saw the suffering of children who are abandoned and
abused, the threats against the family, the divisions of the
world, the arrogance of the rich who do not share ... with
those who suffer hunger and thirst," he said.

The evening procession was the second event for the Pope on
Good Friday, the most solemn day in the Christian calendar,
when the faithful commemorate Christ's crucifixion and death.

At another Good Friday service earlier in the day, the Pope
heard a Vatican preacher rail against "The Da Vinci Code,"
branding the book and its upcoming film version as just more
examples of Jesus being sold out by a wave of what he called
"pseudo-historic" art.

Father Raniero Cantalamessa, whose official title is
"Preacher of the Papal Household," also condemned the so-called
"Gospel of Judas," an alternative view to traditional Christian
teaching which has received wide media attention recently.

The Pope, who marks the first anniversary of his election
next week, is leading the 1.1 billion-member Roman Catholic
Church toward the first Easter of his pontificate.

His predecessor John Paul was in his dying days for all of
last year's Easter season and was only able to make brief
appearances in the week between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday.

John Paul died on April 2, a week after Easter.

On Saturday night, Benedict will say an Easter Eve mass,
and on Sunday will deliver an "Urbi et Orbi" (to the city and
the world) blessing and message.