April 28, 2014

ROME – Standing in the midst of a giant cross outlined with small torches, Pope Francis said the cross is a reminder of how much evil people are capable of and how much love Jesus had for a sinful humanity.

"It was a heavy cross like the night for those who are abandoned, heavy like the death of a loved one and heavy" because it took on all the pain of evil, he said, presiding over the nighttime Way of the Cross April 18.

Standing atop a hillside overlooking Rome's Colosseum, the pope told the thousands of people who gathered with him in prayer that Jesus shows "that evil will not have the last word," and love, mercy and forgiveness will be victorious.

The solemn torch-lit service gave powerful voice to the many social and spiritual problems facing the world and to the redeeming power of Christ's sacrifice.

This year the pope picked Italian Archbishop Giancarlo Maria Bregantini of Campobasso-Boiano – a former factory worker, long-time prison chaplain and fiercely outspoken critic of the Italian mafia – to write the prayers and reflections that are read aloud at each of the 14 stations.

In the meditations, the archbishop looked at how the suffering of Christ is found in the wounds and suffering of one's neighbours, family, children and world.

For the fourth station – Jesus meets his mother – two former addicts were present as people meditated on the tears mothers shed for their children sent off to war, dying of cancer from toxic wastelands or lost in "the abyss of drugs or alcohol, especially on Saturday nights."

For the fifth station – Jesus is helped by Simon of Cyrene to carry his cross – two people without permanent homes carried and accompanied the cross as a reflection was read about "finding God in everyone" and sharing "our bread and labour" with others.

Two women participated in the eighth station – Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem – as the meditation deplored domestic violence, "Let us weep for those men who vent on women all their pent-up violence" and to weep for women who are "enslaved by fear and exploitation."