OFFICE FOR THE LITURGICAL CELEBRATIONS
WAY OF THE CROSS
LED BY THE HOLY FATHER
GOOD FRIDAY 2008
MEDITATIONS AND PRAYERS BY
When I received the invitation from His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, conveyed through His Eminence Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, asking me to prepare the meditations for this year's Via Crucis on Good Friday at the Colosseum, I did not have the slightest hesitation in accepting the task. I recognized that this was the Holy Father's way of demonstrating his personal concern for the great Continent of Asia, and in particular, his way of including in this solemn act of Christian piety the faithful people of China, for whom the Via Crucis is a deeply felt devotion. The Pope wanted me to bring the voice of these distant sisters and brothers to the Colosseum.
Clearly, the central figure in this Via Dolorosa is Our Lord Jesus Christ, as he is presented to us by the Gospels and the Church's tradition. Yet behind him there are many people from the past and the present, including ourselves. In our prayer this evening let us be mindful of the presence of so many brothers and sisters from times past. They, probably more than ourselves, experienced in their bodies the Passion of Jesus. In their flesh, Jesus was newly arrested, maligned, tortured, derided, dragged and crushed under the weight of the Cross, and nailed to that wood like a criminal.
Obviously, we are not alone at the Colosseum this evening. Present in the Holy Father's heart and in our own hearts are all the "living martyrs" of the 21st century. "Te martyrum candidatus laudat exercitus".
When we think of persecution, let us also remember the persecutors. As I was drafting the text of these meditations, it frightened me to realize how unchristian I am. I had to make a great effort to purify myself of uncharitable sentiments towards those who caused Jesus to suffer and those who are causing our brothers and sisters to suffer in the world today. Only when I confronted my sins and my own lack of faithfulness, did I succeed in seeing myself among the persecutors, and then I was moved to repentance and gratitude for the forgiveness of our merciful Master.
So let us now begin our meditation, let us sing and pray to Jesus and with Jesus for those who suffer on account of his Name, for those who cause him and his brothers and sisters to suffer, and for ourselves, who are sinners and at times also his persecutors.
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OPENING PRAYERThe Holy Father:
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus our Saviour,
we are gathered here on this day, at this hour and in this place, remembering your many servants who were torn to pieces and killed here, centuries ago, amid the roars of the hungry lions and the cries of the spectators, for their faithfulness to your Name.
Today, we come here to express to you the gratitude of your Church for the gift of salvation won by your Passion.
Colosseums have multiplied down the centuries, wherever our brothers and sisters in different parts of the world continue to be harshly persecuted today, prolonging your Passion. Together with you and our persecuted brothers and sisters around the world, we begin this journey along the Via Dolorosa with deep emotion, the journey that you once travelled with such great love.
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