This year's Meditations were written by 14 people associated with the correctional system, in particular the Due Palazzi prison in Padua. The cross was carried alternately by members of the prison and by doctors and staff from the Vatican Health and Hygiene Directorate. The Pope did not deliver a homily, but gave room for silence before the crucifix of San Marcello.
Vatican City (AsiaNews) – In the era of the coronavirus, the Way of the Cross, the Via Crucis, was not celebrated, as it has been since the 1960s, around the Colosseum, but was held instead in St Peter’s Square and on the parvis of St Peter’s Basilica.
At 9 pm, the silence of the vast empty space was broken by the polyphonic choir and the voices of the readers reciting the Meditations, broadcast to the world. The square’s emptiness was a reminder of all the people, in Italy and around the world, who are isolated at home to prevent the spread of COVID-19 virus. The decision to let inmates give their testimonies seems to convey a fitting lesson.
This year, based on a proposal by Pope Francis, the Meditations were written by fourteen people associated with the correctional system, in particular the Due Palazzi prison in Padua, under the direction of Chaplain Fr Marco Pozza and Tatiana Mario, a volunteer.[i]
The first station, about Jesus’s condemnation, was written for example by an inmate serving a life sentence, whilst the one about Jesus’s encounter with his mother was by an inmate’s mother. A priest accused but later acquitted of charges (probably of paedophilia) after a ten-year legal process authored the Meditation about the crucifixion, whilst the one about Jesus’s burial came from prison warden who is also a permanent deacon. All the Meditations centre on the bitterness of evil, but also on the unexpected signs of hope encountered in the darkness of imprisonment.
In a deserted St Peter’s Square, the Way of the Cross, marked by torches on the ground, went around the obelisk, before heading towards the platform where the crucifix of San Marcello is on display, leading into the basilica. Finally, Pope and his Master of Ceremonies stood in the parvis.
The cross was carried alternately by members of the Due Palazzi prison and by doctors and staff from the Vatican Health and Hygiene Directorate. Earlier today, Francis described doctors and nurses as today’s “crucified”. On several occasions in recent weeks, the pontiff spoke about their work with coronavirus patients and the deadly risks they take.
At the twelfth station, where Jesus dies, the procession stopped in front of the illuminated crucifix of San Marcello, the only element with colour in the dark evening, with everyone standing motionless, in a long prayerful silence.
At the end of the fourteenth station, the Pope gave his blessing and remained silent whilst the choir sang the ancient hymn of the Crux fidelis, which, in the pain of the cross, is a reminder of the fruitfulness of the wood of the cross.
In silence without delivering any homily, Francis went back into the basilica. In the deserted square, the crucifix of San Marcello continues to dominate the square. In the past few weeks, the Pope frequently invoked it to save the world from the pandemic.