Pope: modern-day nihilism stems from despair over death

Eduard Munch:Despair

Vatican City, Nov 6, 2011 / 02:26 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Benedict XVI told pilgrims to Rome Nov. 6 that a loss of faith in Jesus Christ has led many people to despair in the face of death.

“If we remove God, if we take away Christ, the world will fall back into the void and darkness,” he said in his Sunday Angelus address in St. Peter’s Square.

“And this is also reflected in the expressions of contemporary nihilism, an often subconscious nihilism that unfortunately plagues many young people.”

The Pope charted the impact that the Christian message had upon the ancient world where “the religion of the Greeks, the cults and pagan myths were not able to shed light on the mystery of death.” He noted that ancient inscriptions read “In nihil ab nihilo quam cito recidimus,” meaning “How quickly we fall back from nothing to nothing.”

Thus St Paul reminded the Christians of Ephesus that they were they were “without hope and without God in the world” before their conversion to Christianity, whereas afterwards they no longer grieved “like the rest, who have no hope.”

“Faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ,” said the Pope, is “a decisive watershed.” It is the “definite” difference between “believers and nonbelievers,” or “those who hope and who do not hope.”

The attainment of this eternal life with Christ, the Pope said, is depicted in today’s Gospel reading where Christ recounts the parable of the ten maidens invited to a wedding: five wise ones who were readied with oil in their lamps upon the groom’s arrival and five foolish ones who were not.

He explained how St. Augustine, the great theologian of the fourth and fifth centuries, along with many other ancient authors, saw the maiden’s oil as “a symbol of love, which you cannot buy, but is received as a gift, conserve within ourselves, and practiced in our deeds.”

Our Last Judgment, therefore, will be “based on the love we practiced in our earthly life.” That is why it is “true wisdom” to take advantage of mortal life to carry out works of mercy, because “after our death, it will no longer be possible.”

Our model and guide along the way, he concluded, was the Virgin Mary, the Seat of Wisdom. For this reason, he said, the Church speaks to the Mother of God with the words: “vita, dulcedo, et spes nostra – life, sweetness, and our hope.”

“May we learn from her how to live and die in the hope that never disappoints.”

After the Angelus, Pope Benedict appealed for an end to violence in Nigeria following a series of attacks by an Islamist terror group that have left over 100 dead in the north-east of the country in recent days.

“I follow with apprehension the tragic events reported in recent days in Nigeria,” said the Pope.

An Islamist sect known as Boko Haram have claimed responsibility for the attacks that have included suicide bombings and shootings in the cities of Maiduguri and Damaturu.

“While I pray for the victims, I ask for an end to all violence, which does not resolve problems but increases them, sowing hatred and divisions, even among the faithful.”

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2 Responses to Pope: modern-day nihilism stems from despair over death

  1. toadspittle says:

    “..if we take away Christ, the world will fall back into the void and darkness,”

    Well, if one considers, say, the Greece of Plato and Aristotle a place of void and darkness, then Toad would agree. Which he doesn’t.
    Very different today in Greece. Plenty of void and darkness there.
    Italy next, it seems!


  2. toadspittle says:


    …and the headline is wrong, again, The Pope does not say nihilism stems from “despair over death” he says people “despair in the face of death.” Which is not the same thing.

    Nobody despairs over death. They despair over life. Thinks Toad, anyway..


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