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'Why, Lord?' appropriate prayer in grief, Pope says

Grieving parents need ‘compassion in the face of pain,’ Pope Francis says at meeting

Published: March 19, 2024   
Pope Francis greets members of the "Talità Kum" Association, a group for grieving parents, from Vicenza, Italy, at the Vatican March 2, 2024. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

Crying out to God and demanding answers when one's child dies is anything but a sign of a lack of faith, Pope Francis told a group of grieving Italian parents.

"There is nothing worse than silencing pain, putting a silencer on suffering, removing traumas without facing them, as our world often encourages in its rush and numbness," the pope said in a speech written for members of the "Talità Kum" Association from Vicenza, Italy.

While the pope had an aide read his speech March 2 because he was suffering from bronchitis, he personally greeted each member of the group.

In the text, the pope said he wanted to "offer a caress to your heart, broken and pierced like that of Jesus on the cross: a heart that is bleeding, a heart bathed in tears and torn apart by a heavy sense of emptiness."

"The loss of a child is an experience that defies theoretical descriptions and rejects the triviality of religious or sentimental words" or "sterile encouragements," the text said.

Recognizing that too often, the pious phrases Christians offer to grieving parents do nothing to help and may just add to the pain, the pope said the best response is "to imitate the emotion and compassion of Jesus in the face of pain," not trying to minimize it, but to share it.

Pope Francis told the parents, "Grief, especially when it is so excruciating and without explanation, needs only to cling to the thread of a prayer that cries out to God day and night, that sometimes expresses itself in the absence of words, that does not attempt to resolve the drama but, on the contrary, inhabits questions that keep returning: 'Why, Lord? Why did this happen to me? Why did you not intervene? Where are you while humanity suffers and my heart mourns an immense loss?'"

In the face of suffering, the pope wrote, "the first response of God is not a speech or a theory, but walking with us, being at our side.”

"The Lord wants to come to our homes, the home of our hearts and the homes of our families shocked by death," Pope Francis wrote. "He wants to be near us, he wants to touch our affliction, he wants to give us his hand to raise us up again."

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