Pope FrancisRecently hospitalized with bronchitis, Rome’s cold weather skipped the traditional Good Friday night procession to the Colosseum, instead staying at his home in the Vatican where thousands of faithful attended the torchlight event.
This Good Friday was the first time a pontiff was a no-show at the Colosseum Way of the Cross procession since 2005. Then, a weak and sick St. John Paul II, eight days before his death, silently observed the Way of the Cross. program on TV in his apartment in the Apostolic Palace.
The Vatican said Francis will preside over the procession in the ancient Roman arena that commemorates Jesus’ crucifixion and suffering before his death on the cross. But just hours before the start of the procession, the Vatican, citing the “intense cold” that has made evenings unseasonably chilly in Rome these days, revealed that Francis would stay at his residence in a Vatican City hotel and follow the ceremony from there. .
There was an 86-year-old Pope Discharge from a hospital in Rome April 1 after intravenous antibiotics for bronchitis.
Earlier Friday, Francis presided over a two-hour early evening prayer service at St. Peter’s Basilica. Holy Thursday, a day earlier, saw the pope attend a long mass at the basilica and in the afternoon visit a juvenile prison in Rome where he washed and dried the feet of a dozen young inmates in a symbolic gesture of humility that mimicked what Jesus did. For his 12 apostles before the crucifixion.
The Colosseum appointment is a highlight of Holy Week events. At this year’s procession, in which a long, thin, lightweight cross was carried by the faithful, about 20,000 people held candles lit in the darkness outside the grounds. When the procession ends, and a cardinal, instead of the Pope, gives a benediction, “Long live the Pope!” rose from the crowd.
Francis chose “Voices of Peace in Times of War” as the theme of the procession. Read aloud the suffering of immigrants and refugees from war, civil war or hunger in Africa, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, South America and elsewhere.
The selection comes from the many accounts of suffering that Francis has heard from migrants and spoken to on his travels abroad and on other occasions.
Among the accounts was a young Ukrainian who first fled to Italy where his grandmother worked to escape the war at home, but later, homesick, returned to Ukraine. That account was followed by a young Russian who said his brother had died, possibly after being sent to fight in Ukraine, which Russia invaded in February 2022.
There is Francis Lamented again and again The suffering of the Ukrainian people and issued many appeals for peace.
Earlier in the prayer service, Francis, who has chronic knee problems, used a wheelchair to reach the central area of the basilica and presided over the service in a red robe.
During the ceremony, the pope occasionally crackled while reading aloud and when he gave the benediction at the end of the service. At one point, he stood up to kiss a statue of Jesus on a tall cross that was brought to him, then bowed his head in silent reflection.
AP Photo/Andrew Medichini
Although Rome has been experiencing spring-like weather during the day lately, temperatures have dropped by 30 degrees Fahrenheit (about 4 degrees Celsius) after dark.
Francis is scheduled to preside over an Easter Vigil Mass at the basilica on Saturday night. On Sunday, he is in St. Peter’s Square for mid-morning mass. He is expected to deliver a lengthy speech that will review the world’s wars and other conflicts, known by its Latin name “urbi et orbi”.