“In the Cross we see the monstrosity of man, when we allow ourselves to be guided by evil; but we also see the immensity of God's mercy who does not treat according to our sins, but according to His mercy”. This was the message at the heart of Pope Francis’ brief unscripted address Friday evening as he presided at the traditional "Via Crucis", or Way of the Cross, service at Rome’s ancient Coliseum.
Immigrants, the unemployed, the sick, the elderly and prisoners: these were the focus of thousands of pilgrims prayers Friday evening as they gathered in the darkness around the ancient amphitheater, behind a simple wooden Cross.
"God - Pope Francis said – placed all the weight of our sins on the Cross of Jesus, all the injustices perpetrated by every Cain against his brother, all the bitterness of the betrayal of Judas and Peter, all the vanity of tyrants, all the arrogance of false friends. It was a heavy Cross, like the night of abandoned people, as heavy as the death of loved ones, heavy because it carried all the ugliness of evil".
The Cross emerged from the ruins marking the 14 stations of Christ’s final journey here on earth, borne between two burning candles by immigrants, prisoners, homeless, elderly, women, disabled, and former drug addicts. From the Palatine Hill opposite the Coliseum, Pope Francis knelt in prayer as the mediations by Italian Archbishop Giancarlo Maria Bregantini were read.
The Archbishop from the southern region of Campobasso, has been at the forefront in the fight against organised crime in southern Italy. His reflections spoke of "all of those wrongs that have created the economic crisis and its grave social consequences: job insecurity, unemployment, an economy that rules rather than serves, financial speculation, suicide among business owners, corruption and usury”.
The meditations also denounced the abuse of women and children, the loneliness of old people, of prisoners who endure torture, victims of organized crime and loansharks. The Archbishop wrote: "Today, many of our brothers and sisters, like Jesus, are nailed to a bed of pain, at hospital, in homes for the elderly, in our families. It is a time of hardship, with bitter days of solitude and even despair”.
As the Cross came to a standstill before the Holy Father four the 14th station, the Pope spoke briefly in unscripted remarks to the thousands of pilgrims gathered below in flickering candle light. He spoke of the “monstrosities” that mankind is capable of when we allow ourselves to be guided by evil. But he concluded “it is also a glorious Cross, as [glorious] as the dawn after a long night, because it represents the totality of the love of God, which is greater than our iniquity and our betrayals".
"However - he continued – it is also a glorious Cross, as [glorious] as the dawn after a long night, because it represents the totality of the love of God, which is greater than our iniquity and our betrayals. In the Cross we see the monstrosity of man, when we allow ourselves to be guided by evil; but we also see the immensity of God's mercy who does not treat according to our sins, but according to His mercy. Before the Cross of Christ, we see, we can almost touch with our hands how much we are eternally loved; Before the Cross, we feel like 'children' and not 'things ' or objects".
"Oh, our Jesus - the Pope concluded - lead us from the Cross to the Resurrection and teach us that evil will not have the last word, but love , mercy and forgiveness. O Christ, help us to once again cry : 'Yesterday I was crucified with Christ; today I am glorified with Him. Yesterday I died with Him, today I live with Him. Yesterday I was buried with Him, today raised with Him '. Finally, let us all together remember the sick, remember all the abandoned people under the weight of the Cross, that in the trial of the Cross they may find the strength of Hope, the Hope of the Resurrection and the Love of God".
19 Apr 2014
Pope Francis: In the Cross we see the monstrosity of man and greatness of God’s mercy
From Vatican Radio: