The WYD Via Crucis celebrated today in Sydney was a high quality artistic and religious performance that plunged the entire city in an atmosphere of meditation and participation. The production of such a simple Passion play but complex in terms of scene, sounds (or lack thereof), gestures, dances and lights was the work of a 60-year-old Italian-Australian clergyman, Fr Franco Cavarra, who came late to the priesthood but has a thespian past. He said that his intention was to show how contemporary the Passion of Christ is in the life of Sydney and everyone.
Hence the different Stations of the Cross were placed in various points in the city. The façade of the cathedral was the backdrop for the Last Supper; the Art Gallery became the Sanhedrin; the Opera House was Pilate’s court, Bangaroo Dock with Harbour Bridge in the background was Calvary.
The power of the symbols made the connection with our times immediate and eloquent. The Last Supper in the presence of the Pope hinted at the treasure that is the Eucharist, which the Church continues to live; a Jesus lashed with blood marks hung upside down represented modern torture victims; an Aborigine as the man from Cyrene forced to carry the cross told the story of colonial abuses.
Especially significant was the WYD Cross which has travelled from host city to host city since 1982 according to John Paul II’s will. Carried by a group of young people it preceded the actors, suggesting that young people are not spectators of Christ’s passion, but its actual protagonists.
The actors’ pantomime, the off-field commentaries and the slowly unfolding scenes, almost like pictures, gave the 200,000 or so young people an opportunity to silently see themselves in the play.
Just 100 young actors were needed to show how art can be free from the curse of emptiness and consumerism.
Only yesterday the Holy Father had said that “[o]ur world has grown weary of greed, exploitation and division, of the tedium of false idols and piecemeal responses, and the pain of false promises. Our hearts and minds are yearning for a vision of life where love endures, where gifts are shared, where unity is built, where freedom finds meaning in truth, and where identity is found in respectful communion.” This Via Crucis is a taste of the new vision of life.
In the Way of the Cross Benedict XVI took part in person to the first Station and then followed the play-prayer from a video outlet placed on top of the crypt in St Mary’s Cathedral.