Before the evening service of the Way of the Cross in the Roman Colosseum, which will begin under the leadership of Pope Francis at 21.15, the text and the author of this year’s reflections are still unknown. This is the first time this happens, and the reasons for keeping this information secret are also unknown.
Journalists accredited in Vatican they learned that they would receive the text of the Stations of the Cross meditation at 5:30 p.m. on Friday, almost four hours before the service. Each year they were published a few days earlier and were available in bookshops in the area of Saint Peter’s Square.
The prevailing belief is that the current unprecedented decision is related to what happened on Holy Week a year ago, less than two months after the start of Russian aggression on Ukraine. Reflections to the penultimate 13th station – Jesus dies on the cross, wrote two friends, nurses: A Ukrainian woman and a Russian woman working in one of the Roman hospitals. It was also announced that they would carry the cross together.
Their text, officially published by the Vatican, included the words: “Death all around. A life that seems to lose its value. Everything changes in a matter of seconds. Existence, days, carefree winter snow, picking up children from school, work, hugs, friendships… everything. Suddenly everything loses its value.”
“Where are you, Lord? Where are you hiding? We want our old lives back. Why all this? What fault have we committed? Why have you abandoned us? Why have you abandoned our nations? Why have you broken up our families in this way? Why do we have no desire to dream and live? Why have our lands become as dark as Calvary?” – wrote a Russian and a Ukrainian.
“Lord, where are you? Speak in the silence of death and division, and teach us to be peacemakers, to be brothers and sisters, to rebuild what the bombs wanted to destroy,” they added.
Entrusting the two women with the task of carrying the cross together and writing the meditations caused a diplomatic incident, concern and protests in Ukraine. The country’s embassy to the Holy See expressed dissatisfaction. A similar position was taken by the head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholics, Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk.
The Apostolic Nuncio in Kiev, Archbishop Visvaldas Kulbokas, forwarded the reactions of the Ukrainian side to the Vatican. At the same time, he admitted that he himself would not organize a prayer in this way, because – as he assessed – “reconciliation must come when the aggression ends and when Ukrainians will be able not only to save their lives, but also freedom.”
Finally, due to the polemic, the prepared and published words were not read at all in the Colosseum, and at the moment when the Ukrainian woman and the Russian woman carried the cross together, the faithful were asked to silently pray for peace.
This polemic showed with all its power that the consideration of the Way of the Cross, which is a profound religious event, can also have a great political or geopolitical weight.
What will be in this year’s text?
It is still not known what is in this year’s text that, contrary to tradition, it is kept secret until almost the last moment. It is also unknown who wrote it. This information was always provided by the Vatican well in advance, even several weeks in advance.
It seems almost certain that more than a year after the Russian aggression against Ukraine began, there will be accents referring to this war. It is recalled that Pope Francis he even talks about “tormented Ukraine” and its people several times a week.
Main photo source: Abaca/PAP/EPA