04/07/2023, 03.32
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The Way of the Cross at the Colosseum while the world fights a piecemeal war

The "voices of peace" during the Good Friday meditations in Rome include the conflicts that cause bloodshed in Asia. Noted were Sister Ann Rose Nu Tawng’s kneeling in Myanmar to stop the military, and the faith of Christians of Aleppo and Mosul. Because of a cold snap, Pope Francis did not participate in the rite, joining the prayer from Casa Santa Marta.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – In this year’s Way of the Cross, dedicated entirely to a world war fought piecemeal, Pope Francis chose the “voices of Peace” and “All the places where conflict, hatred and persecution” as the stations of the Cross.

The pontiff was not physically present on the Palatine Hill. In the afternoon the Vatican Press Office issued a statement, saying that, “Due to the intense cold of these days,” the pontiff would join the prayer from Casa Santa Marta, letting the Cardinal Vicar of Rome Angelo De Donatis lead the service.

Unlike 2005, when Pope John Paul II was unable to take part in the Way of the Cross for health reasons, this time no images of the pope were shown on live TV.

The heart of the Way of the Cross was the invocation for peace in the meditations by the victims of conflicts, including many embodying the suffering in Asia.

In particular, at the eighth station, the meeting between Jesus and the women of Jerusalem provided the opportunity to mention the conflict in Myanmar and the courageous gesture two years ago by Sister Ann Rose Nu Tawng, from the Sisters of St Francis Xavier in Myitkyina.

A “woman [. . .] became a mother in spirit for many.  She knelt down in defence of her people before the power of the weapons that were lined up and, willing to give her life, meekly pleaded for peace and reconciliation.

“Jesus, now as then, in the grisly turmoil of hate the dance of peace arises.  And we Christians want to be instruments of peace.  Convert us to you, Jesus, and give us strength, for you alone are our strength.

At the stations, the odyssey of those who also fled "from bombs, knives, hunger and pain. [. . .] pushed onto a truck, hidden in trunks, thrown onto unsafe boats” was highlighted.

“Who will be a Cyrenian for me?” was asked, giving voice to one of those people. The tenth station, the one where Jesus stripped of his clothes saw both the pain of a Ukrainian boy forced to flee his home and that of a Russian boy who lost a brother in the war and for this reason "feels sick twice".

But in his Way of the Cross, the pontiff did not forget Aleppo, nailed to the cross. He also compared the remembrance of Jesus's death to the pain of a mother who lost a child while playing in Mosul.

“It is not easy to accept this situation,” says the meditation. “Nonetheless, faith helps me to hope, for it reminds me that the dead are in the arms of Jesus.  And we survivors try to forgive the aggressor because Jesus forgave his executioners.”

“Lord Jesus, eternal Word of the Father, you became silent for us,” said Cardinal Angelo De Donatis at the end of the rite, reading the final prayer that Pope Francis had prepared.

The invocation was punctuated by 14 thanks to Jesus, one for each station.

“Thank you, Lord Jesus, for the meekness that overwhelms arrogance”, but also “for the love shown in the face of betrayal. [. . .] for the hope you instil in time of trial. [. . .] for the forgiveness you offered your executioners.”

And finally, “Thank you, for having defeated death” and  “for the light you kindled in our nights. In reconciling all divisions, you made us all brothers and sisters, children of the same Father who is in heaven”.

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“L’Asia: ecco il nostro comune compito per il terzo millennio!” - Giovanni Paolo II, da “Alzatevi, andiamo”