Improvised Meditation at Colosseum

Pope Leaves Text Aside at Stations of the Cross

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VATICAN CITY, APR. 15, 2001 ( At the end of the Stations of the Cross on Good Friday, John Paul II surprised everyone by putting aside his prepared meditation and speaking about the witness that Christians must give of Christ´s cross.

«Hail, Cross,» he began saying in Latin, then adding in Italian, «the Church of Christ confesses this divine and human reality. She has confessed it for 2000 years. And today, for the first time in this millennium, we confess it before the world, here in Rome, with this Via Crucis, around the Roman Colosseum.»

«In the third millennium we wish to confess that, by his Cross the Son of God, accepting this humiliation destined for slaves, raised it to glorification and adoration,» the Holy Father added.

«We adore you, Christ, and we bless you, because by your cross you redeemed the world,» the Pope added in Latin, concluding: «May this truth, confessed today in the Basilica of St. Peter and the Roman Colosseum, be light and strength in this time, which we began some months ago. Hail, Cross of the Roman Colosseum! Hail, on the threshold of the third millennium! Hail, through all the years, and centuries of this new time that opens before us!»

The Stations of the Cross began in the Colosseum, the famous Flavius amphitheater, site of early Christian martyrdoms, and continued in front of Trajan´s Arch, ending in the Palatine Hill.

Cardinal Camillo Ruini, vicar of the Diocese of Rome, carried the cross for the first two stations. The Christian symbol was then carried by a Roman couple and their three children; then by a woman from Rwanda, one from Thailand, another from the Dominican Republic and, finally, by Franciscan friars.

The meditations for the stations were inspired by the writings of John Henry Newman (1801-1890), the convert who became a cardinal.

Absorbed in meditation, a kneeling John Paul II followed the Stations of the Cross from the Palatine Hill. Then, beginning at the 13th station, the Pope carried the cross to the end.

Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said the text which John Paul II did not read will be kept as an official document in the Vatican records. ZENIT published that text Friday. For all intents and purposes, the text may be considered as though the Pope had pronounced it.

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