VATICAN CITY (CNS) – More than 10,000 people gathered outside the Colosseum in Rome prayed with Pope Francis for world peace, while a Ukrainian and a Russian woman held a cross together during the nightly Stations of the Cross of April 15.
The pope had asked families to write the series of prayers and reflections for the 14 stations based on their real-life experiences bearing difficult “crosses” in life, such as the loss of a family member, the infertility, illness and disability as well as migration, but who also seek hope in their faith.
The 13th Station—Jesus Dies on the Cross—reflected on the tragedy of death, loss, and war with a reflection written by a Ukrainian family and a Russian family.
The meditation, which was posted a few days before the event, says they see “death everywhere” and the families ask, “Where are you, Lord?” … We want our life to go back to the way it was. … What wrong have we done? …Why did you break up our families like that?
“We know you love us, Lord, but we don’t feel that love, and it drives us to despair,” the pre-written meditation read, ending with a call that God “teaches us to be peacemakers, brothers and sisters, and to rebuild what the bombs tried to destroy.
This meditation was changed after some controversy when the meditations were published.
Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, a major archbishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, has asked Pope Francis to drop plans to have a Ukrainian woman and a Russian woman carry the cross during the Pope’s Stations of the Cross service, saying the April 12 that he thought the idea was “untimely”. , ambiguous and such that it ignores the context of Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine.
The new meditation read on April 15 called for a minute of silence: “In the face of death, silence speaks louder than words. Let us pause in a prayerful silence and each one prays in his heart for peace in the world.
However, the cross was still held by a Ukrainian and a Russian. The two women met and became friends while studying nursing and working on a campus of the medical university in Rome. They told Vatican News on April 11 that such friendships are common and that many families are made up of both nationalities, living in both countries or in one or the other.
War “is a tragedy that strikes both peoples. I am sure that neither the Ukrainian people nor the Russian people want this war. Everyone wants a normal life,” said Iryna, who is from Ukraine.
The Stations of the Cross, presided over by Pope Francis, has returned to the Colosseum in Rome after two years of restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The pope offered a final prayer at the end of the service, saying, “Take us by the hand, like a father, lest we turn aside from you. Turn our rebellious hearts to your own heart, so that we can learn to pursue plans for peace.
“Encourage opponents to shake hands and taste mutual forgiveness. Disarm brother’s hand raised against brother, so that where there is hatred, concord will flourish. Grant us never to act as enemies of the cross of Christ, so that we can share in the glory of his resurrection,” he said.
Earlier in the day, the pope presided over the Liturgy of the Lord’s Passion, which commemorates the passion and death of Christ on the cross.
The pope began the rite after a silent procession into the central nave, where he stood in silent prayer before the main altar. Usually he would have knelt to lie prostrate on the ground in prayer, a sign of adoration and penance; however, he has constant difficulty with his knee.
During the veneration of the cross, after the homily, the pope wore a red chasuble and prayed silently before kissing the cross and then holding it aloft for veneration. Due to security measures in place to limit the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19, the cross was then placed in front of the main altar for veneration from the pews, with no people coming to the cross to genuflect and kiss the feet of Christ.
In keeping with tradition, the homily was delivered by Cardinal Cantalamessa, preacher of the pontifical household.
The papal preacher said Jesus invites everyone to repent and turn swords into plowshares and missiles into factories and homes.
“This year we celebrate Easter not with the joyous sound of bells, but with the sound in our ears of bombs and explosions not far from here,” Cardinal Raniero Cantalamessa said during the liturgy.
“There is only one way to escape the current of time which carries everything with it: to pass on to what does not pass away”, that is to say the promise and the truth of Jesus Christ, source of salvation, he said in his homily during the April 15 service in St. Peter’s Basilica.
Today, some think there is no truth or certainty, others think “there is too much injustice, too much suffering in the world to believe in God,” the cardinal said.
But think “how much more absurd and hopeless the evil around us becomes without faith in an eventual triumph of truth and good,” he said.
The Vatican also released a transcript of a television interview on a religious program that aired earlier today on RAI, the Italian television channel.
In the interview, Pope Francis said he understands why governments buy weapons, but “I don’t justify them.”
That the nations must defend themselves, that’s what Cain thought who killed his brother. “If there was a model of peace, this (need for defense) would not be necessary.”
“But we live with this diabolical pattern of killing each other out of a desire for power, a desire for security, a desire for many things. But I am thinking of hidden wars, those that no one sees, that are far from us,” he said.
People talk about peace, he said, and “the United Nations has done everything possible, but it hasn’t succeeded. I’m going back to Calvary. There, Jesus did everything. With mercy, with kindness, he tried to convince the leaders, but no: war, war, war against him!
He said he prays to the Archangel Michael every morning “so he can help me defeat the devil.”
He said, “I’m scared of him, that’s why I have to defend myself so much. It is the devil who did all these maneuvers so that Jesus would end up like him, on the cross. The powers of darkness on Jesus: “It is your hour”, the powers of darkness.