Pope Francis prays as he leads the Good Friday Liturgy of the Lord's Passion April 2, at the Altar of the Chair in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican. (CNS photo/Andreas Solaro, pool via Reuters)Pope Francis prays as he leads the Good Friday Liturgy of the Lord's Passion April 2, at the Altar of the Chair in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican. (CNS photo/Andreas Solaro, pool via Reuters)

As Pope Francis presided over the Liturgy of the Lord's Passion, the preacher of the papal household called on bishops and all Catholics to examine their consciences for ways they may be harming the unity of the Catholic Church.

Pope Francis presided over the liturgy April 2 at the Altar of the Chair in St. Peter's Basilica, but as is customary, the preacher of the papal household, Cardinal Raniero Cantalamessa, gave the homily as the pope and more than two dozen cardinals listened.

"Fraternity among Catholics is wounded," the cardinal said. "Divisions between churches have torn Christ's tunic to shreds, and worse still, each shredded strip has been cut up into even smaller snippets."

"Fraternity among Catholics is wounded," Cardinal Raniero Cantalamessa said. "Divisions between churches have torn Christ's tunic to shreds.”

With only about 150 people present because of COVID-19 restrictions, Cardinal Cantalamessa clarified that he was speaking "of the human element of it, because no one will ever be able to tear the true tunic of Christ, his mystical body animated by the Holy Spirit. In God's eyes, the church is 'one, holy, catholic and apostolic' and will remain so until the end of the world."

God's protection of the Catholic Church, he said, "does not excuse our divisions," but makes them even more worthy of condemnation and should inspire greater efforts to heal the divisions.

"The most common cause of the bitter divisions among Catholics," the 86-year-old cardinal said, "is not dogma, nor is it the sacraments and ministries -- none of the things that by God's singular grace we fully and universally preserve."

"The divisions that polarize Catholics stem from political options that grow into ideologies taking priority over religious and ecclesial considerations."

Instead, he said, "the divisions that polarize Catholics stem from political options that grow into ideologies taking priority over religious and ecclesial considerations and leading to complete abandonment of the value and the duty of obedience in the church."

"This is sin in its primal meaning," said Cardinal Cantalamessa, who was appointed preacher of the papal household in 1980 by St. John Paul II and has served in the role since.

When support for political candidates, parties or policies are given priority over building up the kingdom of God and the unity of his body, the church, it is time for "a serious examination of conscience" and conversion, he said.

"Fomenting division is the work par excellence of the one whose name is 'diabolos' that is, the divider, the enemy who sows weeds, as Jesus referred to him in the parable" in Matthew's Gospel.

Catholic bishops and priests "need to be the first to make a serious examination of conscience," the cardinal said. "They need to ask themselves where it is that they are leading their flocks -- to their position or Jesus' position."

The Catholic Church is called to be a force for the unity of all Christians, he said, and so Catholics must pray and work for the peace and unity Jesus willed for his disciples.

The liturgy began with Pope Francis, assisted by two monsignors, prostrating himself on the floor of the basilica before the altar. Later, after the reading of the Passion according to St. John, the pope also led the adoration of the cross.

Just a few hours after the evening liturgy, the pope was scheduled to preside over the Stations of the Cross in St. Peter's Square. The meditations for the service were written by children and adolescents and reflect on the crosses many children in the world bear, especially during the coronavirus pandemic.

We don’t have comments turned on everywhere anymore. We have recently relaunched the commenting experience at America and are aiming for a more focused commenting experience with better moderation by opening comments on a select number of articles each day.

But we still want your feedback. You can join the conversation about this article with us in social media on Twitter or Facebook, or in one of our Facebook discussion groups for various topics.

Or send us feedback on this article with one of the options below:

We welcome and read all letters to the editor but, due to the volume received, cannot guarantee a response.

In order to be considered for publication, letters should be brief (around 200 words or less) and include the author’s name and geographic location. Letters may be edited for length and clarity.

We open comments only on select articles so that we can provide a focused and well-moderated discussion on interesting topics. If you think this article provides the opportunity for such a discussion, please let us know what you'd like to talk about, or what interesting question you think readers might want to respond to.

If we decide to open comments on this article, we will email you to let you know.

If you have a message for the author, we will do our best to pass it along. Note that if the article is from a wire service such as Catholic News Service, Religion News Service, or the Associated Press, we will not have direct contact information for the author. We cannot guarantee a response from any author.

We welcome any information that will help us improve the factual accuracy of this piece. Thank you.

Please consult our Contact Us page for other options to reach us.

City and state/province, or if outside Canada or the U.S., city and country. 
When you click submit, this article page will reload. You should see a message at the top of the reloaded page confirming that your feedback has been received.

The latest from america

Hidilyn Diaz became the Philippines’ first Olympic gold medal winner, set an Olympic record — and thanked her friends who prayed the Miraculous Medal novena.
Many Catholics are now devastated to lose access to a treasured rite that has nourished their spiritual lives for decades.
Jonathan CulbreathJuly 27, 2021
“As long as only the ministry, but not the heart and the spirit, speak in official church texts, the exodus from the world of faith will continue,” he wrote.
What makes Mary an appealing figure today is what has made her popular for 2,000 years: For all her connections to divine power, she has a lot in common with people who often get overlooked.