Vatican City, 30 March 2013 (VIS) – At 5:00pm in St. Peter's Basilica yesterday, Good Friday, the Holy Father presided over the celebration of the Lord's Passion. After the Liturgy of the Word—in which we heard the account of the Passion according to St. John—and the homily, the universal prayers were recited. The rite continued with the adoration of the Cross and ended with communion.
Hours later, at 9:15pm, Pope Francis presided for the first time over the Way of the Cross at Rome's Colosseum. This year, the meditations and prayers accompanying the stations were written by young Lebanese Catholics, guided by Cardinal Bechara Boutros Rai, O.M.M., Patriarch of Antioch of the Maronites, Lebanon. The images in the booklet reproduced 19th century illustrations of the Way of the Cross made by an unknown Franciscan in Bethlehem. Over a hundred thousand people, many of them youth as well as a large group of Lebanese pilgrims, attended the event.
The Holy Father followed the ceremony, which was broadcast by Vatican Television, from a small platform on the side of the Palatine hill. Two young persons from the diocese of Rome and two Lebanese youth carried the torches alongside the cross, which was carried—for the first and last station—by Cardinal Agostino Vallini, vicar general of Rome, then an Italian and an Indian family, then a woman in a wheelchair, then by two Chinese seminarians, then two Franciscan friars of the Custody of the Holy Land, then two Nigerian sisters, then two Lebanese sisters, and then two Brazilian youth. At the end of the Way of the Cross the Pope spoke the following words:
“Dear Brother and Sisters,
Thank you for having taken part in these moments of deep prayer. I also thank those who have accompanied us through the media, especially the sick and elderly. I do not wish to add too many words. One word should suffice this evening, that is the Cross itself. Jesus' Cross is the word through which God has responded to evil in the world.”
“Sometimes it may seem as though God does not react to evil, as if He is silent. And yet, God has spoken. He has replied and his answer is the Cross of Christ: a word which is love, mercy, and forgiveness. It is also a judgement, namely that God, in judging us, loves us. Let us remember this: in judging us, God loves us. If I embrace his love then I am saved, if I refuse it, then I am condemned. Not by him, but my own self, because God never condemns; He only loves and saves.”
“Dear brothers and sisters, the word of the Cross is also the answer which Christians offer in the face of evil, the evil that continues to work in us and around us. Christians must respond to evil with good, taking the Cross upon themselves as Jesus did. This evening we have heard the witness given by our Lebanese brothers and sisters. They are the ones who composed these beautiful prayers and meditations. We extend our heartfelt gratitude to them for this work and above all for the witness they offer. We were able to see this when Pope Benedict visited Lebanon. We saw the beauty and the strong bond of communion joining Christians together in that land and the friendship of our Muslim brothers and sisters and so many others. That occasion was a sign to the Middle East and to the whole world: a sign of hope.”
Now let us continue this “Via Crucis” in our daily lives. Let us walk together along the Way of the Cross and let us do so carrying in our hearts this Word of love and forgiveness. Let us walk forward waiting for the Resurrection of Jesus who loves us so much. He is all love!”