Pope at Good Friday procession says Catholic Church is 'under attack'




Rome - By Alvise Armellini, - Pope Francis presided on Friday over the Via Crucis (Stations or Way of the Cross) procession, a night-time ceremony that re-enacts Jesus' suffering on the day of his crucifixion.
Following tradition, the Good Friday event was staged by Rome's Colosseum, a place of martyrdom for early Christians in the ancient Roman Empire.



 
"Our Lord Jesus, help us see through your cross all the crosses of the world," Francis said at the end of a nearly 90-minute ceremony at the ancient Roman amphitheatre
The leader of the world's 1.3 billion Catholics mentioned "the cross of the Church, your bride, which feels constantly under attack from inside and outside."
The remarks could be seen as a reference to the paedophilia scandal which has afflicted the Catholic Church for decades, and which intensified in recent years.
In another likely allusion to the sex abuse crisis, the pope spoke about "the cross of the little ones, hurt in their innocence and in their purity."
Francis' message could also be linked to the devastating fire which on Monday hit Paris' Notre Dame cathedral, a global symbol of Christianity.
The pope listed several other modern-day sufferers whose plight he compared to Jesus', including migrants "who find closed doors due to fear and hearts locked by political calculations."
Before Francis wrapped up the procession, there were readings penned by Sister Eugenia Bonetti, an Italian missionary nun who works in Rome on rescuing women from prostitution.
"We want to walk this Via Dolorosa in union with the poor, the outcasts of our societies and all those who even now are enduring crucifixion," Bonetti wrote in her meditations.
She referred to the street in Jerusalem that Jesus is believed to have walked to his crucifixion. Via Dolorosa is Latin for the "way of suffering."
Bonetti mentioned "the homeless; the young deprived of hope, without work and without prospects; the immigrants relegated to slums at the fringe of our societies after having endured untold suffering."
Deploring public indifference to the plight of sex trade victims and other migrants, she described the Sahara and the Mediterranean as "the new cemeteries" of the world.
"While governments, closed off in their palaces of power, debate, the Sahara is filled with the bones of men and women who could not survive exhaustion, hunger and thirst," Bonetti wrote.
The meditations were read during a candle-lit procession in which people took turns in carrying a cross between the 14 stops, or stations, marking the key moments in Jesus' day of crucifixion.
The 82-year-old Francis did not take part in the walking but followed proceedings from a podium, and addressed and blessed a crowd of more than 15,000, according to Vatican estimates.
Before the Via Crucis, the pontiff celebrated a Lord's Passion service in St Peter's Basilica, in the presence of about 100 cardinals and bishops.
Like in previous years, a red-draped Francis started that service laying flat, face down, before St Peter's altar, a dramatic gesture of worship that lasted about a minute.
For the Catholic Church, this week is marked by several solemn ceremonies leading up to Easter, the most important Christian holiday, which celebrates the resurrection of Jesus.
On Thursday, Francis washed the feet of 12 inmates of a prison near Rome, imitating the gesture Jesus is believed to have performed on the 12 apostles.
On Saturday evening, the pope is to lead a vigil Mass in St Peter's, and celebrations culminate on Sunday with Easter Mass and the "Urbi et Orbi" (To The City and To The World) peace message and blessings.

Friday, April 19th 2019
By Alvise Armellini,
           


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