The "immense suffering" of victims of paedophile priests mentioned alongside those who suffer discrimination and persecution for their faith. Celebrating Mass in Westminster Cathedral, Benedict XVI again underlines the Church and society’s "need" for "witnesses" of Christ.

London (AsiaNews) – The " immense suffering caused by the abuse of children, especially within the Church and by her ministers " have caused "shame" and "humiliation" in "all": they are part of the many pains that Christians offer daily to God, be it when they suffer "discrimination and persecution for their faith," be it when they suffer ills of body, mind or spirit. On the third day of his visit to Britain, celebrating Mass in Westminster Cathedral, the heart of Catholic England, Benedict XVI thus addressed the theme that was used most in the controversies and attacks against him and against the Catholic Church.

Attacks and controversies that have appeared to have largely diminished. There is much talk today of the arrest of the six North Africans suspected of wanting to carry out an attack against Pope Benedict XVI, who "is happy about this trip and is calm," said Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See Press Office. "We have full confidence - he added - in ability of the security forces to protect both the Pope and the public". The Pope, according to members of his entourage, "appreciates the visit and has been warmly welcomed everywhere." There was also a special edition of the Times, entirely devoted to the papal trip, which among other things, contains an article by Lord Christopher Patten, the prime minister's chief organiser of the visit, entitled " Why this state visit is well worth its cost to British taxpaiers”. And in this vein, this morning before going to Westminster, Benedict XVI met with the Prime Minister, David Cameron, the deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, and acting leader of the opposition Leader, Harriet Harman.

There was another warm welcome at Westminster Cathedral, with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams also present. In the outside square, several thousand young people shouted their enthusiasm. " Think of all the love that your heart was made to receive, and all the love it is meant to give", he told them in a greeting after mass, then quoting Mother Teresa of Calcutta, "the great Missionary of Charity, reminded us that giving love, pure and generous love, is the fruit of a daily decision. Every day we have to choose to love, and this requires help, the help that comes from Christ, from prayer and from the wisdom found in his word, and from the grace which he bestows on us in the sacraments of his Church".

During the liturgy, Benedict XVI is inspired by the large crucifix overlooking the cathedral, dedicated to the Precious Blood, "the source of life of the Church." " Here the great crucifix which towers above us - he said - serves as a reminder that Christ, our eternal high priest, daily unites our own sacrifices, our own sufferings, our own needs, hopes and aspirations, to the infinite merits of his sacrifice. Through him, with him, and in him, we lift up our own bodies as a sacrifice holy and acceptable to God (cf. Rom 12:1). In this sense we are caught up in his eternal oblation, completing, as Saint Paul says, in our flesh what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, the Church (cf. Col 1:24). In the life of the Church, in her trials and tribulations, Christ continues, in the stark phrase of Pascal, to be in agony until the end of the world (Pensées, 553, éd. Brunschvicg).

“We see this aspect of the mystery of Christ’s precious blood represented, most eloquently, - he continued - by the martyrs of every age, who drank from the cup which Christ himself drank, and whose own blood, shed in union with his sacrifice, gives new life to the Church. It is also reflected in our brothers and sisters throughout the world who even now are suffering discrimination and persecution for their Christian faith. Yet it is also present, often hidden in the suffering of all those individual Christians who daily unite their sacrifices to those of the Lord for the sanctification of the Church and the redemption of the world. My thoughts go in a special way to all those who are spiritually united with this Eucharistic celebration, and in particular the sick, the elderly, the handicapped and those who suffer mentally and spiritually. Here too I think of the immense suffering caused by the abuse of children, especially within the Church and by her ministers. Above all, I express my deep sorrow to the innocent victims of these unspeakable crimes, along with my hope that the power of Christ’s grace, his sacrifice of reconciliation, will bring deep healing and peace to their lives. I also acknowledge, with you, the shame and humiliation which all of us have suffered because of these sins; and I invite you to offer it to the Lord with trust that this chastisement will contribute to the healing of the victims, the purification of the Church and the renewal of her age-old commitment to the education and care of young people. I express my gratitude for the efforts being made to address this problem responsibly, and I ask all of you to show your concern for the victims and solidarity with your priests”.

The Pope thus returns to what has been the fil rouge of this visit: the affirmation of the role of religion in society and the need for Christians to give witness to their faith. A true democracy does not discriminate against religion, but promotes collaboration between faith and reason, he said yesterday in a speech in Westminster Hall, addressed to British society. "How much contemporary society needs this witness! – he concluded - How much we need, in the Church and in society, witnesses of the beauty of holiness, witnesses of the splendour of truth, witnesses of the joy and freedom born of a living relationship with Christ! One of the greatest challenges facing us today is how to speak convincingly of the wisdom and liberating power of God’s word to a world which all too often sees the Gospel as a constriction of human freedom, instead of the truth which liberates our minds and enlightens our efforts to live wisely and well, both as individuals and as members of society".