Pope at WYD Via Crucis: Jesus continues to journey at our side

At the celebration of the World Youth Day Via Crucis in Lisbon’s Edward VII Park, Pope Francis reminds young people that Jesus continues to walk with us today, filled with love and hope for each one of us.

By Christopher Wells

“Today you are going to walk with Jesus,” Pope Francis said at the beginning of the Via Crucis, or Way of the Cross, the culminating event of this Friday during the celebration of World Youth Day.

Speaking from the heart, Pope Francis reminded young people that “when He was among us, Jesus walked, healing the sick, caring for the poor, doing justice… He walked, preaching, teaching us.”

But, the Pope said, “the way that is most engraved in our hearts is the way of Calvary, the Way of the Cross. And today you are going with prayer – we [are going in prayer], me too – with prayer, you are going to renew the Way of the Cross.”

Young pilgrims at the Way of the Cross
Young pilgrims at the Way of the Cross

'The Word became flesh'

Pope Francis insisted, “The Way of Jesus is God coming out of Himself, coming out of Himself to walk among us.” He recalled the triumphant words of the beginning of St John’s Gospel, “The Word became flesh and walked among us. Do you remember?” he asked those present. “And the Word became man and walked among us. And He does that out of love.”

The Pope then invited his listeners to reflect on those things that bring sorrow to their lives, while reminding them that “Jesus is there with us, He weeps with us, because He accompanies us in the darkness that leads to weeping.” And he invited them to share their sorrows with Jesus, in the silence of their hearts.

Jesus comes to wipe away our tears

After a moment of silence, Pope Francis assured the young people that “Jesus, with His tenderness, wipes away our hidden tears,” and is always present to relieve our loneliness, our fears, and to fill us with consolation.

At the same time, Jesus pushes us “to take the risk of loving,” while always accompanying us throughout our lives.

Finally, with a second moment of silence, he called on the young people once again to reflect on their own suffering, anxiety, and miseries, as well as “the desire for the soul to smile again.” And he concluded with words of consolation, focusing once again on Jesus, Who “walks toward the Cross, dies on the Cross, so that our soul may smile” once again.

A moment of the Way of the Cross in Lisbon
A moment of the Way of the Cross in Lisbon

Via Crucis

According to WYD organizers, “the purpose of the Way of the Cross goes far beyond merely recalling the suffering that Christ endured. This type of prayer… proposes that we contemplate and allow ourselves to be infected by the dimension of this totally generous Love, so self-giving as to give his own life for the lives of others.”

The themes for this WYD’s Via Crucis, proposed by young people themselves, dealt with the “wounds and weaknesses present in the lives of today’s young people,” including poverty, solitude, intolerance, destruction of creation, and dependency.

Finding strength in Jesus

Linking modern weaknesses to the 14 Stations of the Cross aimed at creating “an atmosphere of deep prayer, through which everyone can recognize the strength and motivation they receive from Jesus, both in light and in the darkness of their lives.”

Pope Francis leads the Way of the Cross in Lisbon
Pope Francis leads the Way of the Cross in Lisbon

This leads to the prayer “that accompanying Jesus on His difficult journey to Calvary may fill us with hope and motivation to embrace the future, facing its challenges as Jesus did… with the strength of faith, hope, and love.”

Music, art, and witness

The Via Crucis, one of the most solemn and moving events of each World Youth Day, was accompanied by traditional and contemporary music, as well as a series of images representing each Station, which were created by a Jesuit artist, Fr Nuno Branco.

At various points throughout the journey, young people – from Portugal, Spain, and the United States – offered their own testimonies of suffering, hope, and of love.

The Way of the Cross in Lisbon with Pope Francis
The Way of the Cross in Lisbon with Pope Francis
Full video of Way of the Cross

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04 August 2023, 21:30