Pope Francis presided over the via crucis at the Colosseum in Rome on the evening of Good Friday.
Beginning after nightfall, and conducted by torchlight, the Way of the Cross featured meditations by the Ratzinger Prize-winning theologian, Anne-Marie Pelletier.
In keeping with tradition, Pope Francis briefly addressed the faithful gathered to participate in the devotion. He said,
O Christ! Abandoned and betrayed even by your own and sold for next to nothing.
O Christ! Judged by sinners, handed over by those in Authority.
O Christ! Suffering in the flesh, crowned with thorns and clothed in purple.
O Christ! Beaten and nailed in excruciating pain to the Cross.
O Christ! Pierced by the lance that broke your heart.
O Christ! Dead and buried, you who are the God of life and existence.
O Christ! Our only Saviour, we return to you this year with eyes lowered in shame and hearts filled with hope:
Shame for all the images of devastation, destruction and wreckage that have become a normal part of our lives;
Shame for the innocent blood shed daily by women, children, migrants and people persecuted because of the colour of their skin or their ethnic and social diversity or because of their faith in You;
Shame for the too many times that, like Judas and Peter, we have sold you and betrayed you and left you alone to die for our sins, fleeing like cowards from our responsibilities;
Shame for our silence before injustices; for our hands that have been lazy in giving and greedy in grabbing and conquering; for the shrill voices we use to defend our own interests and the timid ones we use to speak out for other’s; for our feet that are quick to follow the path of evil and paralyzed when it comes to following the path of good;
Shame for all the times that we Bishops, priests, consecrated men and women have caused scandal and pain to your body, the Church; for having forgotten our first love, our initial enthusiasm and total availability, leaving our hearts and our consecration to rust.
So much shame Lord, but our hearts also feel nostalgia for the confident hope that you will not treat us according to our merits but solely according to the abundance of Your mercy; that our betrayals do not diminish the immensity of your love; your maternal and paternal heart does not forget us because of the hardness of our own;
The certain hope that our names are etched in your heart and that we are reflected in the pupils of your eyes; the hope that your Cross may transform our hardened hearts into hearts of flesh that are able to dream, to forgive and to love; that it may transform this dark night of your cross into the brilliant dawn of your Resurrection;
The hope that your faithfulness is not based on our own;
The hope that the many men and women who are faithful to your Cross may continue to live in fidelity like yeast that gives flavour and like light that reveals new horizons in the body of our wounded humanity;
The hope that your Church will try to be the voice that cries in the wilderness for humanity, preparing the way for your triumphant return, when you will come to judge the living and the dead;
The hope that good will be victorious despite its apparent defeat!
O Lord Jesus! Son of God, innocent victim of our ransom, before your royal banner, before the mystery of your death and glory, before your scaffold, we kneel in shame and with hope and we ask that you bathe us in the blood and water that flowed from your lacerated heart; to forgive our sins and our guilt;
We ask you to remember our brethren destroyed by violence, indifference and war;
We ask you to break the chains that keep us imprisoned in our selfishness, our wilful blindness and in the vanity of our worldly calculations.
O Christ! We ask you to teach us never to be ashamed of your Cross, not to exploit it but to honour and worship it, because with it You have shown us the horror of our sins, the greatness of your love, the injustice of our decisions and the power of your mercy. Amen.
In her meditations, Anne-Marie Pelletier deviated from the scheme of the 14 “Stations of the Cross” traditionally used in the popular devotion, with her meditation on our Lord with His mother occupying the 11th station, immediately preceding His death on the Cross.
“Standing there,” writes Pelletier, “Our Lady does not desert him: Stabat Mater.”
“In the darkness,” she continues, “but with certainty, Our Lady knows that God keeps his promises: in the darkness, but with certainty, she knows that Jesus is both the promise and its fulfilment.”
Click here to read the meditations.