CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy (CNS) – Like many residents of Rome, Pope Benedict XVI spent the Easter Monday holiday outside the city, but he suggested that people use at least part of the extra day off to look again at the Gospel accounts of the Easter story.
Reading the accounts “allows us to meditate on this stupendous event that transformed history and gives meaning to the life of every person,” the pope said April 9 as he greeted visitors gathered in the courtyard of the papal villa at Castel Gandolfo.
Before reciting the “Regina Coeli,” a Marian prayer used in place of the Angelus from Easter to Pentecost, he said the four Gospels do not try to describe or explain the moment of Jesus’ resurrection; “that remains mysterious – not in the sense of less real, but hidden.”
Instead, the Gospels describe how the women went to the tomb and found it empty.
“In all the Gospels, the women have a great space in the accounts of the apparitions of the risen Jesus, just as they do in the accounts of the passion and death of Jesus,” the pope said.
“At that time in Israel, the witness of the women could not have an official, juridical value,” he said, but the Gospels’ emphasis on their stories demonstrates that they “lived an experience of a special bond with the Lord.”
That special bond, he said, “is fundamental for the concrete life of the Christian community and this is true always, in every age, and not just at the beginning of the church’s story.”
Pope Benedict was scheduled to return to the Vatican April 11 for his weekly general audience, then head back to the papal villa, until April 13.
On Good Friday, the preacher of the papal household, Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa, said “we must be careful on this day … not to merit the reproach that the Risen One addressed to the pious women on Easter morning, ‘Why do you seek the living among the dead?’” Father Cantalamessa said.
Christians cannot pretend that they do not know Jesus rose from the dead, he said, but they should attend the Good Friday liturgy and other commemorations of Christ’s passion knowing they are personally involved in the events and that Jesus died and rose to save them today.