For the second year in a row, due to restrictions in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic, Pope Francis led the ceremony of the Way of the Cross on Good Friday in St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican, and not at the walls of the Colosseum.
In the evening, the pontiff celebrated the Mass of Remembrance of the Passion in the Vatican Basilica, with a sermon delivered by the preacher of the Papal House, Cardinal Raniero Cantalamessa. According to the tradition that has been in force for the last half-century, shortly after the end of the solemn service, the pontiff was to go to the Colosseum, where, according to legend, the first Christians were martyred.
However, because of the pandemic, a year ago, Pope Francis at nine o’clock in the evening went to the porch of St. Peter’s Cathedral to lead a procession dedicated to the memory of the suffering and death of Jesus Christ.
This time, the Via Crucis ceremony was again held in an empty square in front of the main Catholic church of the world, where a small group of children, accompanied by nuns and teachers, carried the cross with torches in their hands. All of them performed the traditional 14 stations of the Cross, and during each of them, in addition to passages from the Gospel, prayer reflections were read out, which this year were written by children from one of the parishes in Rome and scouts from the Italian region of Umbria.
These simple and direct testimonies reflect the sad realities of the pandemic. Some of the children told about their loneliness during the long months of lockdown, others — about how they saw off their grandfather who was infected with the coronavirus to the hospital, who died a few days later.
The procession bypassed the famous obelisk, brought to Rome from Egypt by Emperor Caligula, and climbed to the porch of the Vatican Basilica, where the cross was handed over to Pope Francis. He himself did not take a direct part in carrying the cross, but only read prayers. In addition to the pontiff, a very small group of cardinals, priests, monks, and laypeople witnessed the Via Crucis. At the end of the hour-long ceremony, the Pope embraced four children — three boys and a girl who ran out onto the cathedral’s porch and left St. Peter’s Square.
Due to the extraordinary measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, which are currently in effect in the Vatican, all services and rites of Holy Week are held here with the participation of only some clergy and laity. However, a live online broadcast of all these events is carried out by the information portal of the Holy See, Vatican News.