VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis presided over the Way of the Cross at the place where early Christians were martyred, recalling the Passion of Christ.
“Christians must respond to evil with good, taking the cross upon themselves as Jesus did,” the Pope said at Rome’s Colosseum on March 29.
“One word should suffice this evening: that is the cross itself,” he said. “The cross is the word through which God has responded to evil in the world.”
Thousands gathered at the Colosseum, holding candles while the 14 Stations of the Cross were recalled. The Colosseum was lit up with torches, and a giant cross stood at the main entrance lit up by several small torches.
“The word of the sross is also the answer which Christians offer in the face of evil, the evil that continues to work in us and around us,” said Pope Francis.
A group of people of different nationalities, including seminarians from China, Franciscans from the Holy Land, Brazilian youth, as well as Nigerian and Lebanese religious, took turns carrying a black cross.
They walked inside the first floor of the Colosseum, circling it, and pausing to pray each station.
A few in the group carried giant fire torches, and some wore the Lebanese flag over their shoulders.
During the Fourth Station, a disabled woman in a wheelchair joined the group and was given the black cross to lead the group.
The Sistine chapel choir sang during the procession, but a Maronite choir sung the last song.
The stations begin with Jesus being condemned to death and end with him being laid in the tomb after he dies on the cross.
The meditations, written by a group of Lebanese youth, recalled violence in the Middle East, abuse of women and children, Christian division and the promotion of abortion.
The Pope said in his remarks after the stations that Christians now continue the passion of Christ in their daily lives.
“Let us walk together along the Way of the Cross, and let us do so carrying in our hearts this word of love and forgiveness,” the Pope said.
“Let us go forward waiting for the resurrection of Jesus,” he added.
Pope Francis also thanked his Lebanese “brothers and sisters” for their witness and for writing the "beautiful" reflections that were read during the prayer.
“When Pope Benedict visited Lebanon, we saw the beauty and the strong bond of communion joining Christians together in that land and the friendship of our Muslim brothers and sisters and so many others,” he said.
“That occasion was a sign of hope to the Middle East and to the whole world,” he said.
He acknowleged that sometimes it seems as though God does not react to evil, “as if he is silent.”
“And yet God has spoken, he has replied, and his answer is the cross of Christ, a word which is love, mercy, forgiveness,” said the Pontiff.
But it is also reveals a judgment and that God, in judging us, loves us.
“If I embrace his love, then I am saved; if I refuse it, then I am condemned, not by him, but my own self, because God never condemns — he only loves and saves,” remarked the Pope.
Pope Francis thanked those present at the Colosseum for taking part “in these moments of deep prayer,” as well as the media, the sick and the elderly.
He will preside over Easter vigil Mass tomorrow at 8:30pm, when he will baptize four people, including a 17-year-old Vietnamese American.
The Pope will not give a homily on Easter Sunday, but he is expected to give the Urbi et Orbi greeting in 65 languages after the 10:30am Mass.