by Carol Glatz
ROME (CNS) – Seated atop a hillside overlooking Rome’s Colosseum, Pope Francis presided over the nighttime Way of the Cross, joining thousands of people gathered in prayer.
The solemn torch-lit service on April 18 gave powerful voice to the many social and spiritual problems facing the world and to the redeeming power of Christ’s sacrifice for humanity.
By passing a bare wooden cross from one group of people to the next in succession, those chosen to lead the Way of the Cross acted as visible representatives of the often-hidden injustices still wounding the world.
Two children held the cross as a reflection was read about the plight of sexually abused minors, and two inmates carried the cross during a reflection on the anguish of imprisonment and torture.
As he did last year, Pope Francis remained on the hillside terrace in silent reflection and prayer as thousands of people, many holding candles, attended the ceremony, which was broadcast by more than 50 television networks around the world.
Each year, the pope chooses a different person or group of people to write the series of prayers and reflections that are read aloud for each of the 14 stations, which commemorate Christ’s condemnation, His carrying the cross to Golgotha, His crucifixion and His burial.
This year, the pope picked Italian Archbishop Giancarlo Maria Bregantini of Campobasso-Boiano – a former factory worker, longtime prison chaplain, champion of the unemployed and fiercely outspoken critic of the Italian mafia.
In the meditations, the archbishop, who belongs to Congregation of the Sacred Stigmata, looked at how the wounds and suffering of Christ are found in the wounds and suffering of one’s neighbors, family, children and world.
For the Second Station – Jesus takes up His cross – the archbishop criticized the global economic crisis’ grave consequences, like job insecurity, unemployment, suicide among owners of failing businesses and corruption.
A laborer and a business leader carried the cross, “which weighs upon the world of labor, the injustice shouldered by workers,” said the reflection, which was followed by a call for people to respect political life and resolve problems together.