After a two-year Corona break, Pope Francis led the traditional Way of the Cross prayer in the Colosseum in Rome this Friday evening. Tens of thousands of believers gathered in front of the ancient amphitheater for the atmospheric procession on Good Friday, which commemorated the stations of Jesus’ suffering. A symbolic cross was carried over 14 stations. However, a gesture of reconciliation caused discord in Ukraine.
At the 13th Station of the Cross (“Jesus dies on the cross”), a Ukrainian and a Russian nurse, both living in Rome, carried the simple, black wooden cross. The Roman Catholic Bishop of Kyiv, Vitaly Kryvytskyi, said that this action “may be incomprehensible and unacceptable to those suffering from the aggressor”.
Ukrainian Catholic media decided not to broadcast the Stations of the Cross live from Rome in protest. Vatican envoy to Ukraine Visvaldas Kulbokas said reconciliation could only come after the attack was halted.
The Pope prayed in front of the ancient amphitheater in the light of countless candles and torches. He followed the ceremony from a pavilion on Palatine Hill. Many believers had waited for hours for the ceremony to begin in front of the Colosseum. The traditional ceremony commemorating the Passion of Jesus Christ 2000 years ago, a highlight of the Easter program, took place on the so-called Via Crucis in front of the Roman landmark. The Pope took part in the celebration, which is considered to be one of the most beautiful devotions in the Roman liturgical year.
Pope Francis followed the meditations at the 14 stations of the Via Crucis. A family has prepared a meditation for each of the stations this year. The participating families had suffered different blows of fate, including one with a migration background. A newly married couple, a large family with five children and a pair of grandparents also wrote a text. The meditations for the Way of the Cross change every year. In the past few decades, Pope Francis and his predecessors have chosen very different authors for the stations. John Paul II once asked the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I for a text.
Before the Way of the Cross, the Pope commemorated the suffering and death of Jesus on Good Friday. After readings from the Holy Scriptures and the Great Intercessions, the veneration of the Cross was the focus of the celebration. At the beginning of the Adoration of the Cross, Francis, suffering from knee pain, did not lie down at the foot of the altar, as the Good Friday liturgy prescribes, but remained in prayer for a few minutes. Numerous cardinals and bishops, as well as diplomats accredited to the Holy See, attended the ceremony. The sermon was given by the Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa. There are no services in the Catholic Church on Good Friday and Holy Saturday to commemorate the death of Jesus.
The highlight of the Easter celebrations in the Vatican is the Easter Vigil Mass on Saturday evening. Other highlights of Holy and Easter days in the Vatican are the Pope’s Easter mass on Sunday morning in St. Peter’s Square (10.30 a.m.) and the solemn blessing “Urbi et orbi” around noon.
Pope Francis celebrated the traditional Way of the Cross at the Colosseum in Rome on Good Friday after a two-year Corona break. During the prayer service in the evening (9.15 p.m.) the Passion and Crucifixion of Jesus Christ will be remembered. A symbolic cross is carried over 14 stations. Because of the pandemic, the head of the Catholic Church had to forego the public procession at the ancient amphitheater in 2020 and 2021.