The plight of immigrants, the poor, the sick, the elderly, unemployed and prisoners dominated Pope Francis’ Good Friday service at Rome’s Colosseum as he led Catholics around the world in commemorating the day Jesus died.
In the runup to the second Easter of his pontificate, the pope presided at the traditional Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) service around the ancient Roman ruin.
Sitting on a chair on the Palatine Hill opposite the Colosseum and often kneeling to pray, he listened intently as meditations inspired by the 14 “stations of the cross” were read to the crowd of thousands.
Pairs of immigrants, prisoners, homeless, elderly, women, disabled, former drug addicts and others alternated carrying a large cross between each of the stations describing the last hours of Jesus’ life.
This year’s meditations were written by Italian Archbishop Giancarlo Maria Bregantini, who has been on the front lines in the fight against organized crime in southern Italy and one of the country’s most socially progressive church officials.
One spoke of “all those wrongs which created the economic crisis and its grave social consequences,” while others spoke of the plight of battered women, abused children, home-bound and lonely elderly, prisoners who endure torture, victims of organized crime and loansharks.
In brief words at the end of the service, Francis urged the crowd to “remember all the abandoned people” and spoke of the “monstrosity of man” when he lets himself be guided by evil.
It was Francis’s second Good Friday event. Hours earlier, the leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics attended a service at St Peter’s Basilica where Father Raniero Cantalamessa, the Vatican’s official preacher, said huge salaries and the world financial crisis were modern evils caused by the “cursed hunger for gold.”
That service is one of the few times during the year that the pope listens to someone else preach.
Francis was to celebrate an Easter Eve service in St Peter’s Basilica yesterday and today, he is to deliver his twice-yearly Urbi et Orbi blessing and message.
Francis yesterday voiced condolences for the victims of a ferry disaster in South Korea, tweeting: “Please join me in praying for the victims of the ferry disaster in Korea and their families.”
Francis is due to make a five-day visit in August to South Korea.