Against the backdrop of Rome’s Colosseum, maybe probably the most iconic scene related to Christian persecution wherever on this planet, Pope Francis led the standard Way of the Cross procession on Good Friday, recalling the trail of Christ’s ardour.
Among the group of pilgrims who carried the cross via the 14 stations was a household from Syria and a nun from Iraq, each international locations marred by conflict and spiritual fundamentalism.
Speaking to Christ within the kind of prayer, Francis expressed “shame” for “our generations that are leaving the young a world fractured by division and wars; a word devoured by selfishness where young people, children, the infirm, the elderly are marginalized.”
He spoke of the disgrace brought on by many individuals, “including some of your ministers, who allowed themselves to be deceived by ambition and vainglory, losing their dignity and their first love.”
And he spoke of hope, together with that which comes from Christ’s cross, “fruit of the greed and cowardice of so many doctors of the Law and hypocrites,” for the reason that Resurrection sprang from it, “turning the darkness of the tomb into the splendor of the dawn of Sunday without sunset, teaching us that your love is our hope.”
Beginning shortly after 9:00 p.m. Rome time, Francis presided over the standard Via Crucis, with what the Vatican estimated to be 20,000 pilgrims gathered to take part. In addition to the pilgrims from the Middle East, the younger ladies and men- aged between 16 and 27- who have been tasked by Francis with writing the meditations, have been amongst those that carried the cross from one station to the opposite.
Syrian Riad Sargi and his household carried the cross within the seventh station, “Jesus falls for the second time.” Speaking with Vatican News, he mentioned, “we will bear the difficulties and difficult situations on the cross.”
“We will feel the cross very heavy for us to hold on to, because we hold all the suffering for all the Syrian people, from children, families, fathers and mothers,” he mentioned. “We’re looking for Syria to, like Jesus, to be resurrected from the death, the difficulties, and to live again a normal life, hopefully very soon.”
The pope closed the meditations with a prayer, divided in three sections. In the primary one, he spoke of the disgrace humanity has to have immediately, together with for the truth that it has “lost its shame.”
Shame, Francis mentioned, that has to prevail “for having left you alone to suffer for our sins,” equivalent to “having chosen Barabbas and not you, power and not you, appearances and not you God, money and not you, mundanity and not eternity.”
Barabbas is described within the Gospel of Matthew, that particulars Jesus’ ardour, as a “notorious prisoner,” and when the governor Pontius Pilate requested the gang, “Which one do you want me to release to you, Barabbas, or Jesus called Christ?” the gang chanted “Barabbas,” and for Christ to be crucified.
“Lord Jesus, give us always the grace of holy shame!” Francis mentioned, closing the primary part of his prayer.
The pope then mentioned that “our gaze is also full of repentance,” begging for mercy earlier than Christ’s “eloquent silence.”
“Repentance that sprouts from the certainty that only you can save us from evil, only you can heal us from our leprosy of hatred, of selfishness, of pride, of greed, of vengeance, of avarice, of idolatry, only you can re-embrace us giving us back our filial dignity and rejoice in our return to home, to life,” Francis prayed.
Repentance, he continued, that “springs from feeling our smallness, our nothingness, our vanity;” that’s born from “our shame, of the certainty that our heart will remain always restless until it finds you.”
“The repentance of Peter who, when he met your eyes, wept bitterly for having denied you before men,” he mentioned, earlier than closing the part on repentance.
Lastly, he spoke concerning the “hope,” that comes from understanding that God’s solely “measure” when loving is “to love us without measure.”
There is hope, Francis mentioned, in the truth that there are such a lot of missionaries who proceed to problem the “sleeping consciousness” of humanity risking their lives to serve Jesus within the “poor, the rejected, the immigrants, in the unseen, in the exploited, in the hungry and in prisoners.”
Hope lies additionally, he mentioned, in the truth that regardless of efforts to “discredit” it, His Church, holy but made of sinners, continues to be a mild that bears witness to Christ’s “unlimited love for humanity,” and an “ark of salvation and a source of certainty and truth.”
The Way of the Cross, in accordance with younger folks
The custom of the pope heading the meditation of the Way of the Cross within the Colosseum dates again to the hold forth of Benedict XIV, who died in 1758. He’s the pope who initiated this reflection on the Colosseum, in what’s left of a constructing that’s an iconic image of Imperial Rome the place the blood of many martyred Christians was shed, both being crucified or thrown to the wild beasts.
Yet the trendy custom goes again to Pope Paul VI, who revived it in 1964, and it has been a yearly appointment since then, attracting hundreds of pilgrims. St. John Paul II used to hold the Cross himself, and it quickly grew to become a worldwide tv occasion.
Each yr, popes select the one who writes the meditations for the fourteen stations. This yr, a group of 14 younger ladies and men, together with a number of who’re nonetheless in highschool, have been tapped for the job, becoming a member of a record that features world-renowned Catholics equivalent to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger — immediately Pope emeritus Benedict XVI — and St. John Paul II, but additionally folks of all walks of life, together with a group of Lebanese younger folks; spiritual sisters, a feminine theologian and prelates from around the globe.
Traditionally, the Way of the Cross procession recollects the trail of Christ to his crucifixion, together with passages from the Bible, a brief meditation and prayer, and this time was no exception.
Each station was written by a completely different particular person. For occasion, within the sixth station the Way of the Cross displays on Veronica wiping the face of Jesus.
Cecilia Nardini, who carried the cross within the fifth station, wrote: “I see you, Jesus, wretched and barely recognizable, treated like the least of men. You walk, faltering, to your death, your face bleeding and disfigured, yet, as always, meek and humble, looking up.”
“We know nothing about that woman, Veronica, or her story,” Nardini wrote. “She earns heaven with a simple gesture of charity. She approaches you, sees your suffering face and loves it even more than before. Veronica does not stop at appearances, which today are so important in our image-conscious society. She loves, unconditionally, a face that is unsightly, marred, unlovely and imperfect. That face, your face, Jesus, in its very imperfection, shows the perfection of your love for us.”
Some of them are very a lot grounded in immediately’s world, mirroring the issues many younger folks have.
One such case was the 11th station, Jesus nailed to the cross, written by Greta Sandri, who begins by asking Jesus “what would I have done in your place?”
“You had the strength to bear the weight of the cross, to meet with disbelief, to be condemned for your provocative words,” she wrote. “Today we can barely swallow a critical comment, as if every word was meant to hurt us.”
Today, she continued, on this planet of the web, individuals are conditioned by what circulates on-line, but Christ’s phrases are “different.”
“You have forgiven us, you held no grudge, you taught us to offer the other cheek and you kept going, even to the total sacrifice of yourself,” she wrote.
Today, Sandri wrote, folks have their eyes glued to their telephones and troll others on social networks to “nail others for their every mistake, with no possibility of forgiveness. People ruled by anger, screaming their hatred of one another for the most futile reasons.”
“I look at your wounds and I realize, now, that I would not have had your strength,” the younger lady acknowledges. “But I am seated here at your feet, and I strip myself of all hesitation. I get up in order to be closer to you, even if by a fraction of an inch.”
Pope Francis’s determination to have younger folks write the meditations of the cross is consistent with this yr’s motto from the Vatican, centered on the youth forward of the upcoming assembly of Catholic bishops to happen in Rome. The synod of bishops, scheduled for October, will give attention to younger folks and their vocation.
Holy Week is probably the most solemn interval of the yr for Christians around the globe. It started with Palm Sunday, which Francis celebrated in St. Peter’s Square. On Saturday, the pope will preside over the Easter Vigil Mass, and on Sunday he’ll have a good time an open-air Mass in St. Peter’s Square.