The Way of the Cross at Rome's Colosseum The Way of the Cross at Rome's Colosseum 

Way of the Cross: ‘Voices of Peace in a World at War’

This year's meditations for the Way of the Cross are testimonies narrated to the Holy Father by men and women who have experienced violence, poverty and injustice, during his apostolic journeys and on other occasions. The compilation that makes up the text was edited by several Dicasteries of the Roman Curia.

By Vatican News

The men and women of all ages and from different walks of life who bring their testimonies and prayers to the Way of the Cross this year, all come from lands that are wounded by bombs, gunfire, missiles or fratricidal hatred. Their stories will accompany the 14 Stations of the journey that unfolds today, 7 April, at Rome’s Colosseum.  The meditations are taken from testimonies received by Pope Francis during his many apostolic visits and other occasions. The Pope himself chose the theme: "Voices of peace in a world at war". For a universal perspective, different regions were chosen, and in the case of Europe, two peoples - Ukrainian and Russian - were mentioned, because the war that broke out last year is constantly at the centre of the Pope's attention.

Choosing peace in the Holy Land

The way of the cross winds its path directly from the Holy Land, where "violence seems to be our only language". In this context "full of hatred and resentment", the call is to make a "decision" for peace. Then the prayer: "When we condemn our brothers and sisters without appeal" and "When we close our eyes to injustice: Enlighten us, Lord Jesus!".

A West African migrant's way of the cross

The testimony of a West African migrant is poignant as he recounts his "way of the cross" marked by imprisonment and torture in Libya and the sea crossings, like the one on a raft with 100 people: "Every night I asked God why? Why should people like ourselves consider us enemies? "Deliver us, Lord Jesus", is his prayer, from "hasty judgements", from "destructive gossip".

The frequent falls of young people from Central America

The meditation at the third station, the one where Jesus first falls, is by young people from Central America. They too speak of "falling" due to "laziness", "fear", "discouragement" and "empty promises of an easy but dishonest life of greed and corruption". "Too many families," they write, "continue to mourn the loss of their children". And, they pray, “from our laziness", "sadness", "falls" and also from "thinking that helping others is not up to us": "Raise us up, Lord Jesus!".

The South American mother who helps prevent mine accidents

From South America, the voice of a mother, the victim of a guerrilla bombing in 2012. What terrified her most was seeing her 7-month-old daughter with pieces of glass stuck in her face. "What it must have been like for Mary to see Jesus’ face bruised and bloodied!" "In the disfigured faces of those who suffer, she prays: Grant that we may recognize you, Lord Jesus!"

Victims of 'hatred' in Africa, South Asia and the Middle East

Three migrants from Africa, South Asia, and the Middle East intertwine their stories: they are different but united. All of them are victims of hatred. What "is once experienced, is not forgotten...". Hence, a request for God's forgiveness because "we disdained you in the unfortunate" and "ignored you in those who need help".

The priest tortured during the war in the Balkans

A priest gives voice to the Balkan Peninsula: he was a parish priest at the height of the war, and was deported to a camp without food or water: "They threatened to pull out my fingernails, to skin me alive”. Once he begged a guard to kill him, but a Muslim woman brought him food and aid: “She was for me like Veronica was for Jesus”.  “Grant us your gaze, Lord Jesus!”, is his plea, “that we may take care of those who suffer violence” and “welcome those who repent of evil”.

The hopes of two teenagers from North Africa

Two teenagers from North Africa, Joseph (16) and Johnson (14) living in camps for displaced persons say they want to study and play but have neither the space nor the opportunity: "Peace is good, war is bad. I would like to say this to the world’s leaders".  Their prayer is in "the struggle to build bridges of fraternity": “Make us strong, Lord Jesus!”.

The people of South-East Asia who "love peace”

The faithful from South-East Asia also speak to the world: "We are a people that love peace, yet we are crushed by the cross of conflict...". Women give strength, like the nun who "knelt down before the power of the weapons that were lined up". “From trafficking in weapons without qualms of conscience: Convert us, Lord Jesus!" they pray.

The Sister who teaches values to children in Central Africa

Another voice from Central Africa is that of a nun who tells of the terrible morning of 5 December 2013, when the rebels stormed her village: "My Sister disappeared and never came back. She cried out "Why?" But she understood that it was from God she had to draw the strength to love: "Everything passes away except God". "Heal us", she asks God, from the fear of being "misunderstood" and "forgotten".

The testimonies of two boys: one Ukrainian the other Russian

At the tenth station, the meditations are by a young Ukrainian and a young Russian. The former recounts his flight from Mariupol to Italy, with his father stranded at the border, and his return to Ukraine. "There is war on all sides, the city is destroyed". The latter remembers his oldest brother who died and his father and grandfather who disappeared: “Everyone told us we should be proud, but at home, there was only much suffering and sadness”. They ask the Lord for purification from "resentment", "bitterness", "violent words and reactions".

The "calvary" of a young man from the Near East

Suffering is also shared by a young man from the Near East who has been living through a war that became "more atrocious every day" since 2012. He fled with his parents: "Another calvary...". "Heal us, Lord Jesus" from "being closed in on ourselves", from "isolation", "distrust and suspicion".

The West Asian mother who lost her son but does not give up hope

Words of hope from a West Asian woman who saw her young son die under a mortar shell along with his cousin and a young neighbour: "Faith helps me to hope, for it reminds me that the dead are in the arms of Jesus”. To Christ, she asks: "Teach us" to "forgive, as you forgave us".

The memory of a Sister killed in East Africa

An East African nun relives the death of her Sister at the hands of terrorists on the day her country celebrates the Independence Agreement. "The day of victory turned into defeat". It is Christ, however, she states, who is “our true victory”. "You, who by dying destroyed death: Have mercy on us, Lord Jesus!".

The Southern African girls who forgave the rebels

Finally, the stories of girls from Southern Africa, kidnapped and abused by rebels: “Stripped of clothes and dignity, we lived naked so that we could not escape”. Having escaped, they now write: "In the name of Jesus we forgive them for all they did to us". "Preserve us, Lord Jesus!" “In the "forgiveness that renews the heart".

Fourteen "thank yous"

The Way of the Cross concludes with a prayer of "14 thank yous" to the Lord: "Thank you for the light you have kindled in our nights. In reconciling all divisions, you made us all brothers and sisters".

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07 April 2023, 17:30