Late in the evening in the Roman Coliseum, the Stations of the Cross service ended. About 20,000 people gathered around the Flavian amphitheater. Earlier, the Vatican announced that due to the low temperatures in Rome, the pope will not attend. Francis presided over the Good Friday liturgy of the Lord’s Passion in the Basilica of St. Peter.
The Stations of the Cross service at the Colosseum began at 21. 15. Francis did not preside over the Stations of the Cross at the Colosseum for the first time since the beginning of his pontificate. He watched the service from the Vatican’s Casa Santa Marta, which was explained by the intense cold in the Eternal City. The Pope is recovering from a recent bronchitis that led to his hospitalization.
About 20,000 people gathered around the Flavian amphitheater. The cross was carried, among others, by migrants and refugees, charges of the Astalla church center in Rome.
“Words of peace in a world full of war” – this was the motto of this year’s deliberations accompanying 14 stations.
Each text of the reflections was a testimony of a person about conflicts, war, terrorism, violence, torture, pain, the tragedy of migration. The authors of the considerations come from the Holy Land, Ukraine and Russia, several countries in Africa, South and Central America, and Asia. They are migrants and refugees, mothers, priests. They all experienced suffering, torture and had to flee from areas of conflict and violence. The whole thing adds up to a dramatic picture of “the Third World War in pieces”, as the Pope calls the current situation.
The cross was carried by people from the areas mentioned in the meditations, but not by their authors. Among them were children with handkerchiefs in the colors of the Ukrainian flag.
The Way of the Cross began with the words of prayer: “Lord Jesus, you are our peace. Before the Passion, you said: ‘Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives, I give you.’ Lord, we need your peace, this peace which We cannot build on our own alone.
“Jesus, who take up the cross for us, look at our land thirsty for peace, while the blood of your brothers and sisters continues to be shed and the tears of so many mothers who lose their sons in the war are mixed with the tears of your holy mother.” in the initial prayer.
The words were also heard: we will walk the way of the cross “listening to your suffering, reflected in the suffering of those brothers and sisters in the world who have suffered and are suffering because of the lack of peace, allowing ourselves to be carried away by the testimonies and responses that have reached the ear and heart of the Pope also during his travels.
“All places where conflict, hatred and persecution are suffered are present in the prayer of this Good Friday.”
At the first station, the words of peace from the Holy Land sounded: “Violence seems to be our only language. The mechanism of mutual retaliation is constantly fueled by our own pain, which often becomes the only criterion for judgment. Justice and forgiveness cannot talk to each other. We live together, no recognizing each other, denying each other’s existence, condemning each other, in an endless and increasingly brutal vicious circle. They were followed by an invitation to dialogue, justice and forgiveness.
The experiences of a West African migrant who crossed the desert and arrived at Libyawhere he was locked up in a detention center – “the worst place in the world”, he added. He confessed: “Every night I asked God why: why should people like us be considered enemies? So many people fleeing war wear crosses similar to mine.”
Young people from Central America wrote about the “spiral of drug trafficking, violence, addiction and exploitation of people” and “the impunity of those who cheat, kidnap and kill”. A South American woman described her experience when she and her young daughter were injured by a bomb planted by guerrillas.
A monk from the Balkans told about his imprisonment and torture. There were also testimonies of teenagers from North Africa staying in a refugee camp.
“Words of peace from young people from Ukraine and Russia”
Reflections at the 10th station – “Jesus stripped of his clothes” – were presented as “words of peace from young people from Ukraine and Russia“.
A Ukrainian boy wrote: “Last year, my father and mother took me and my younger brother to Italy, where our grandmother has been working for over 20 years. We left Mariupol at night. At the border, the soldiers stopped my father and told him that he must stay in Ukraine to fight. We continued on the bus for two more days.”
He added: “I was sad when I arrived in Italy. I felt stripped of everything: completely naked. I didn’t speak the language and had no friends. Grandma tried very hard to make me happy, but I just said I wanted to go home. In the end my family decided to return to Ukraine. Here the situation is still difficult, there is a war going on everywhere around, the city is destroyed. But in my heart I still have the certainty that my grandmother told me when I was crying: You will see that everything will pass. And with the help of good Peace will return to God.”
The words of the young Russian then resounded: “I am a Russian boy…when I say this I almost feel guilty, but at the same time I don’t understand why and I feel doubly bad. Stripped of happiness and dreams for the future.”
“For the last two years I have seen my grandma and my mother crying. We were informed of the death of my elder brother in a letter, and I still remember him on his 18th birthday, smiling and shining like the sun, all just a few weeks before we left on a long journey. Everyone told us that we must be proud, but at home there was only a lot of suffering and sadness, the same happened to dad and grandpa, they also left and we don’t know anything else about them,” the Russian boy wrote.
He added: “Someone of my school friends whispered in my ear with great fear that there was a war. On my way home I wrote a prayer: Jesus, please, let there be peace in the whole world and that we may all be brothers.”
At the 11th station, a young resident of the Middle East described his suffering: “In 2012, groups of armed extremists attacked our neighborhood, killing people on balconies and apartment blocks with machine gun fire. I was nine years old. I remember the anguish of my mother and father; hugged and in prayer, aware of the new difficult reality that was ahead of us.
The brutal crime committed against the missionary was told by a nun from East Africa, and the girls from South Africa told about the tortures they suffered.
The Way of the Cross ended with 14 thanks to Jesus, including for the gentleness that overcomes arrogance, for the courage with which he embraced the cross, and for the peace that flows from his wounds.
The transmission failed to connect with the Vatican, where Francis was following the service.
The text of the considerations was announced less than four hours before the Stations of the Cross, which happened for the first time.
The greatest emotions aroused the repetition of the scenario from a year ago, when the reflections for one of the Via Crucis stations were written jointly by a Ukrainian and a Russian woman. This year it was done by a young Ukrainian from Mariupol, who was a refugee in Italy and returned to his country, and a young Russian who lost his brother in the war.
It is presumed that it was for this reason that the Vatican announced the text of the deliberations almost at the last minute. Last year, after a polemic that lasted several days, the text of the Russian woman and the Ukrainian woman was finally not read out, and the faithful were asked to pray in silence for peace.
The re-election of a person from Ukraine and Russia is interpreted as a confirmation of the line of the Holy See, which wants to pursue peace through dialogue with both sides.
Francis presided over the liturgy of the Lord’s Passion
Pope Francis presided over the afternoon liturgy of the Lord’s Passion in the Basilica of St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican, where he arrived in a wheelchair. Then he prayed for a long time before the altar.
During the service in the basilica, the homily was not preached by the pope, as he had been doing since the pontificate John Paul II preacher of the Papal Household, which is currently 88-year-old Cardinal Raniero Cantalamessa.
In his sermon, the 88-year-old monk said that for a century and a half in the “secularized Western world” a “different death of God”, “ideological, not historical”, has been preached.
He recalled words from Nietzsche’s text: “Where is God? We killed him – you and I.”
– Evidently, in the place of God, nothing is put, but man, and more precisely, “superman” or “last man.” It is now necessary to say about this new man – with a sense of contentment and pride, not pity: “Ecce homo” – this is a real man – said the preacher. He also warned: – But we will not fail to realize that a man left to himself is nothing.
Cardinal Cantalamessa also pointed out that “in the intellectual circles of the postmodern West” one breathes an atmosphere whose “common denominator” is “complete relativism in every field: ethics, language, philosophy, art and, of course, religion.”
– Nothing is solid anymore, everything is liquid, or even evaporating. In the times of Romanticism we wallowed in melancholy, today in nihilism – said Cardinal Cantalamessa. He stressed that believers must be protected from this nihilism and called it “the black hole of the spiritual universe.”
The Vatican has not announced any changes to the rest of the papal Holy Week schedule. Francis is scheduled to preside over the celebrations Saturday night at St. Peter’s Square, and on Easter Sunday he is to give his bi-annual blessing “Urbi et Orbi” (to the city and the world) from the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica. Peter.
Main photo source: PAP/EPA/FABIO FRUSTACI