About 20,000 faithful were present tonight, April 14, 2017, at the traditional Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) presided over by Pope Francis near the Colosseum in Rome. With much security amidst a climate of meditation and prayer, thousands of small flames of the candles that illuminated the night. The texts of this year’s meditations for the Stations of the Cross were prepared by French biblical scholar, and winner of the prestigious Ratzinger Prize, Anne-Marie Pelletier.
Shortly before leaving the Vatican, the Pope launched a tweet full of hope: “O Cross of Christ, teach us that the dawn of the sun is stronger than the darkness of the night, and that the eternal love of God always wins.”
On arrival to the Flavian Amphitheater, Pope Francis was welcomed by Mayor of Rome, Virginia Raggi, and Cardinal Vicar of Rome, Agostino Vallini.
Prelates, lay, religious, families, not only Italians, carried the cross in the fourteen stations. In the first and fourteenth, the task fell to Card Vallini. Other bearers of the cross were a Roman family, the handicapped, two students (one Polish and one Italian), and two lay people from the Italian city of Rimini. Also, three Indian nuns, nuns and lay people from Africa (Burkina Faso and the Democratic Republic of Congo), and then again people whose nations the Pope will be visiting: Egypt, Portugal and Columbia. Then, a French married couple, two lay people from China and two Franciscan friars, one Argentine and one Israeli, from the Custody of the Holy Land.
Below is a working translation of Pope Francis’ prayer at the end of the Via Crucis:
O Christ, left alone and even betrayed and sold out by your own people.
O Christ, judged by sinners, delivered by leaders.
O Christ, in anguished flesh, crowned with thorns and clothed in purple. O Christ, scourged and nailed horribly.
O Christ, pierced by the lance that pierced Your heart.
O Christ, dead and buried, You Who are the God of life and existence.
O Christ, our only Savior, we come back to you again this year with eyes downcast with shame and with a heart full of hope:
Of shame, for all the images of devastation, destruction and shipwreck that have become common in our lives;
Shame, for the innocent blood that day shed of women, children, immigrants and people persecuted for the color of their skin or because of their ethnic and social belonging and for their faith in you;
Shame for the times we too, like Judas and Peter, sold, betrayed and left you alone to die for our sins, cowards running away from our responsibilities;
Shame for our silence before injustice; by our hand in laziness and greed; for our loud voice in defending our interests and our shy one, in speaking for another’s; for our quick feet, on the path of evil and our paralysis;
Shame for all the times that we Bishops, priests, consecrated men and women we have scandalized and hurt Your Body, the Church; and we have forgotten our first love, our first enthusiasm and our total availability, leaving our hearts and our consecration to rust.
So much shame, Lord, but our heart is also nostalgic for the confident hope that You do not treat us according to our merits, but solely according to the multitude of Your mercy; that our betrayals do not negate the immensity of Your love; Your heart, mother’s and father, do not forget us because of the hardness of our entrails;
The sure hope that our names are etched in Your heart and that we are placed in the apple of Your eye;
Hope that your Cross turns our hearts hardened in heart of flesh able to dream, to forgive and to love; [and] transforms this dark night of the Cross in the meteoric rise of your Resurrection;
Hope that Your truth is not based on our own;
The hope that the group of men and women faithful to your Cross continues and will continue, to remain faithful like the flavor of yeast and as the light that opens up new horizons in the body of our wounded humanity;
Hope that your church will try to be the voice crying in the desert of humanity to prepare the way for Your triumphant return, when you come to judge the living and the dead;
The hope that good will win in spite of its apparent defeat!
O Lord Jesus, the Son of God, innocent victim of our redemption, before thy royal banner, your mystery of death and glory, before your scaffold, we kneel, ashamed and hopeful, and ask that You wash the blood with the water which flowed from your Heart pierced; to forgive our sins and our guilt;
We ask you to remember our brothers cut off by violence, indifference and war;
We ask you to break the chains that hold us prisoners in our selfishness, in our voluntary blindness and in the futility of our worldly calculations.
O Christ, we ask you to teach us to never be ashamed of Your Cross, not to exploit it, but to honor and worship [it], because with it, You have shown us the monstrosity of our sins, the greatness of Your Love, injustice of our judgments and the power of Your Love. Amen[Working Translation by Deborah Castellano Lubov]