By Asia Galvani* - Venice
The Covid-19 lockdown period caused many to feel lonely, abandoned, and estranged from their peer groups. In many cases, the presence of others became mediated by a screen. It was precisely during the harshest months of 2020 that the idea was born to create a Way of the Cross that links the fourteen stations of the Way of the Cross with Pope Francis' Laudato si' Encyclical. The central idea was to retrace Christ's journey to his death on the Cross and His Resurrection in order to restore a glimmer of hope for the future. In this way, the " Laudato si' Way of the Cross" was born.
The Way of the Cross in light of Laudato si'
During Lent of 2020, the Global Catholic Climate Movement (GCCM) reinterpreted the Way of the Cross devotion in light of Laudato si'. It came spontaneously from below, from the collective need to pray and renew confidence in the Lord in order to have the hope of overcoming the critical situation that the virus had created on an international level since March of last year. “There was tremendous dedication both in the writing of the meditations to production”, testifies Antonio Caschetto, coordinator of the Laudato si’ Circles in Italy. “And the fruit of this dedication is the large number of people who directly participated, through our network, in the Way of the Cross devotion. It is the beginning of a communal journey that continues to this day, a journey begun by Christ who gave us salvation through the Cross on His shoulders”.
Inspired by Laudato si’, the Way of the Cross meditations took form thanks to the collaboration of a number of teams. Synergy among the Italian and African GCCM was fundamental, coordinated by the GCCM communications office and by many animators and representatives of several Italian Circles.
The meditation associated with each station was connected with a theme from Laudato si’ and to a particular experience of the pandemic leading to a reflection on the vulnerability and suffering of the entire earth. For example, Veronica wiping the tears from Jesus’s face, was connected with the Syrian people, to the tears of the poor. The death of Christ on the Cross brought forth a reflection on the many deaths caused by the Coronavirus, which has brought the world to its knees.
Antonio Caschetto works in Assisi as a Laudato si’ Animator and, in addition to being Program Coordinator of the Italian GCCM, he is a member of an international team called “Eco-spirituality”. Thanks to his experience gained in that area, he was able to coordinate the drafting of the meditations of the Way of the Cross. The goal of the initiative harmonizes well with one of Pope Francis’s principal invitations in Laudato si’: “to become painfully aware, to dare to turn what is happening to the world into our own personal suffering and thus to discover what each of us can do about it” (paragraph 19). From this arose the choice “to transform into this painful awareness even our sin committed against the earth”, Caschetto testifies, “urging us to listen to the cry of the earth and of the poor”.
The relationship between humanity/creation during the pandemic
Re-reading Laudato si’ in the light of the current pandemic confirmed the unprecedented perspectives contained in the Encyclical. In the Way of the Cross compiled by the GCCM, the stigmatization of economic and social practices and calling attention to the poor and the various vulnerabilities that pertain to human existence are all aspects that can help to reawaken awareness, in the hope that people might understand how even a small individual gesture can bring about change on the international level.
The meditation for the last station focuses in particular on the relationship between humanity and creation which has changed significantly after we became confined to our homes. A ray of hope emerged from that suffering: “This pandemic is a real turning point. We need to act”, the stations read, “and, at the same time draw strength from this difficulty so that the epilogue might actually be a new beginning”.
The difficult year everyone has just experienced can be transformed into a precious teaching on the level of environmental awareness, a challenge that can make humanity evolve and mature in respect to the care of our common home. It is necessary to see nature as an ally, not as a threat. For this reason, the liturgical itinerary following the Cross of Christ proposed by the GCCM is a journey of reconciliation with ourselves and everything around us – people and the environment.
Crimes against nature
Human actions that cause damage to the earth are often considered real crimes even at the juridical level. Professor Marco Monzani, a jurist, criminologist and university professor, confirms this. He wrote the reflection for the First Station of the Way of the Cross: “Pilate’s indifference characterizes the attitude of our time before the crimes and injustices caused by an extractionist economy that is damaging our common home and our brothers and sisters. It is the fruit of the fear of going against the tide, of choosing to be on the side of the least, because doing that costs considerably. And so, Pilate, with his silence, hands an innocent person over to others to be crucified”.
Professor Monzani notes, for example, the underhanded appropriation by multinational companies of natural resources on land on which indigenous tribes live is a serious crime. The essay entitled “Madre terra è stanca” (“Mother earth is tired”), co-authored with Emilio C. Viano, is dedicated specifically to crimes against the earth. It brought to the fore how “the victims of environmental choices willed and provoked by human beings are still little known as such by public opinion and control groups and are hardly considered at all at the political level. As it is organized today, society does not go out looking for victims. The victims themselves need to be the ones to call attention to a problem that society cannot tackle on its own”.
Marco Monzani, who is also President of the Association of Italian Criminologists (AIC) and a member of the Board of Directors of the International Society of Criminology (ISC), hopes that there might be change soon and that the weakest, who need to be defended, will be respected and supported, rather than attacked, “so that Mother Earth might become a place that belongs to everyone and for everyone, even in view of the good of those who will come after us”.
A young person in every Station
Cube Radio, the official radio station of the Salesian University Institute of Venice and Verona (IUSVE), collaborated with the GCCM in creating a unique digital edition of the Way of the Cross for Lent 2021. To the meditations and texts of the fourteen stations, they added a series of graphics, adapted to being shared on social networks. “With this service, we offered many young people”, explains the Director of IUSVE, Father Nicola Giacopini, “an opportunity for greater reflection and prayer this Lent, characterized by restrictions imposed by the health crisis”.
A young person wearing contemporary clothing has been inserted into each station, a symbol of participating personally in the suffering of Christ and of their nearness to the most vulnerable. “Each time the wood of the Cross appears”, explains Marica Padoan, coordinator of Cube Radio’s graphic team, “there is also a green sprout, a symbol of hope in the Resurrection, as well as a reference to the Book of Ezekiel and the Gospel of Luke: “For if these things are done when the wood is green what will happen when it is dry?” (Luke 23:31). The working group of IUSVE’s academic radio station that developed this digital project in collaboration with several professors who supported the team in the creation of the graphics and supervised their pastoral appropriateness consists of: Luca Chiavegato, Federico Gottardo and Carlo Meneghetti and Michele Lunardi, who manages communications for the Institute.
The Way of the Cross is published on the social media accounts of Cube Radio and the Ecology and Creation section of the Holy See’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.