Pope Francis said on Wednesday that the “armed aggression of these days” is “an outrage against God.”
In his general audience address on April 13, the pope contrasted the peace given by Jesus with idolatrous attitudes that lead to war.
“Jesus’ peace does not overpower others; it is never an armed peace: never! The weapons of the Gospel are prayer, tenderness, forgiveness, and freely given love for one’s neighbor, to any neighbor. This is how God’s peace is brought into the world,” he said.
“This is why the armed aggression of these days, like every war, represents an outrage against God, a blasphemous betrayal of the Lord of Passover, a preference for the face of the false god of this world over his meek one. War is always a human act, to bring about the idolatry of power.”
The pope made the comments as he gave a live-streamed catechesis in the Vatican’s Paul VI Audience Hall. After dedicating last week’s audience to his two-day trip to Malta, he focused on Holy Week, noting that it falls between two Sundays: Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday.
He recalled that on Palm Sunday, Catholics around the world commemorated Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem, when an exultant crowd laid branches before him as he rode on a donkey.
“That was the peace those people were waiting for: a glorious peace, the fruit of royal intervention, that of a powerful messiah who would have liberated Jerusalem from the Roman occupation,” the pope said.
“Others probably dreamed of the re-establishment of a social peace and saw Jesus as the ideal king, who would feed the crowd with bread, as he had done already, and would work great miracles, thus bringing more justice into the world.”
“But Jesus never speaks of this. He has a different Passover ahead of him, not a triumphal Passover.”
Pope Francis said that Jesus’ choice of a colt, or young male donkey, symbolized “meekness and mildness” and showed that “God’s way of doing things is different to that of the world.”
He then reflected on Jesus’ greeting to his disciples before the Passover: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you” (John 14:27).
“The peace Jesus gives to us at Easter is not the peace that follows the strategies of the world, which believes it can obtain it through force, by conquest, and with various forms of imposition. This peace, in reality, is only an interval between wars: we know this well,” he commented.
“The peace of the Lord follows the way of meekness and the cross: it is taking responsibility for others. Indeed, Christ took on himself our evil, sin, and death. He took it all upon himself. In this way, he freed us. He paid for us. His peace is not the fruit of some compromise, but rather is born of self-giving.”
He illustrated his point by referring to “The Grand Inquistor,” a story within Fyodor Dostoevsky’s 1880 novel “The Brothers Karamazov.” The pope has frequently invoked the Russian writer, including in his 2013 encyclical Lumen fidei, speeches, and in-flight press conferences.
In Dostoevsky’s story, Jesus returns to Earth and is arrested by the Grand Inquistor, who interrogates him. The Inquisitor castigates Jesus for “preferring to leave humanity free rather than subjugate it and solve its problems by force.”
“Here is the deception that is repeated throughout history,” the pope said, “the temptation of a false peace, based on power, which then leads to hatred and betrayal of God, and so much bitterness in the soul.”
The pope added that while worldly power produces “destruction and death,” Christ’s peace “builds up history.”
“Easter is therefore the true feast of God and humanity, because the peace that Christ gained on the Cross in giving himself is distributed to us,” he said.
Explaining that the word “Easter” means “passage,” he urged pilgrims to “pass from the worldly god to the Christian God, from the greed that we carry within us to the charity that sets us free, from the expectation of a peace brought by force to the commitment to bear real witness to the peace of Jesus.”
After the pope’s address, a summary of his catechesis was read out in seven languages and he greeted members of each language group.
Addressing Anglophone Catholics, he said: “I greet the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors taking part in today’s audience, especially those from the United States of America.”
“May the celebration of Easter be a time of grace and renewal for everyone. Upon each of you, and your families, I invoke joy and peace in our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Speaking to Polish pilgrims, Pope Francis noted that many Poles will observe Holy Week and Easter in the company of Ukrainian refugees. More than 2.6 million people have entered Poland from Ukraine since the full-scale Russian invasion on Feb. 24.
“Easter is a family holiday, and you, by opening your homes to them, have become their family,” the pope said.
“Although most of them, according to Eastern tradition, will celebrate this holiday a week later, right now, you are all together gazing at the Crucified One and looking forward to the resurrection of Christ, and peace in Ukraine. I bless you from my heart.”