April 10, 2009 / 5:42 PM / 10 years ago

Preacher says atheist ad campaign backfired

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - A campaign promoting atheism on London buses this year ultimately “served God’s cause” by reminding people of the importance of faith, especially to those who suffer, a top papal preacher said on Friday.

Buses bearing the slogan “There’s probably no God. Now enjoy your life!” hit the streets of London in January and the atheist publicity stunt was replicated in other cities, attracting widespread media coverage.

“We should almost thank the people who promoted that advertising campaign. It has served God’s cause more than so many of our apologetic arguments,” said Father Raniero Cantalamessa, who is officially Preacher of the Papal Household.

“It has demonstrated the poverty of their reasons and has helped stir so many sleeping consciences,” he added

Cantanlamessa was preaching in St. Peter’s Basilica in the presence of Pope Benedict on Good Friday, in one of the main services ahead of Easter, climax of the Christian year.

He said believers find comfort in God in difficult moments and wondered out loud how those who lost their jobs or fled from war zones would feel about a world where God did not exist.

“Suffering is certainly a mystery for everyone, especially the suffering of innocent people, but without faith in God it becomes immensely more absurd,” he said.

“Even the last hope of rescue is taken away. Atheism is a luxury that only those with privileged lives can afford.”

The “Passion of the Lord” service was the first of two Good Friday events in which the 81-year-old German Pope, approaching the fourth Easter of his pontificate, was commemorating the crucifixion and death of Christ.

Friday night he was due to lead a Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) procession around the ancient ruins of Rome’s Colosseum.

He says an Easter Eve mass Saturday night and Sunday delivers a blessing and message “Urbi et Orbi” — “to the city and the world.”

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