Pope Francis to write meditations for Good Friday Way of the Cross for the first time — By: Catholic News Agency

The Stations of the Cross at Rome’s Colosseum, April 15, 2022. / Credit: Courtney Mares/CNA

Rome Newsroom, Mar 26, 2024 / 14:30 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis for the first time in his 11-year pontificate will pen his own spiritual meditations for Friday’s Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) against the dramatic backdrop of Rome’s historic Colosseum.

The reflection will be based on the theme “In Prayer with Jesus on the Way of the Cross.” The pope will write a unique treatment for each station, “centered on what Jesus experiences in that moment,” the Holy See Press Office announced.

Vatican News observed that the pope’s decision to write his own mediations this year dovetails with the spiritual dimension of the Year of Prayer, a period of reflection the pope has called in anticipation of the 2025 Jubilee Year.

In 1985 Pope John Paul II started the tradition of delegating the writing of the Good Friday Way of the Cross reflections to different individuals and groups. But he interrupted this custom when he authored his own reflections for the “Great Jubilee,” or Holy Year of 2000. Pope Benedict XVI continued with the tradition throughout his pontificate. 

The setting for the papal Way of the Cross is rich with history and holds a special meaning for Rome’s Christians. 

The Colosseum, which also bears the name of the Flavian Amphitheater, was constructed during the first century A.D. during the reign of the Flavian dynasty. The massive elliptical structure sits in the heart of ancient Rome and was known as a site for gladiatorial battles, military reenactments, and dramatic productions. 

Tradition holds that early Christians were martyred in large numbers at the Colosseum. Though the archaeological evidence of the Colosseum as a site for martyrdom is scarce, the world’s largest ancient amphitheater still holds a central place in the Christian imagination, serving as a symbol of the persecution of the early Church. 

In 1750 Pope Benedict XIV erected a large cross and the 14 stations of the cross there; in 1756 he dedicated the edifice to the memory of the passion of Christ and the martyrs. The tradition lasted for a century until the unification of Italy in 1861, when the Church lost its sovereign temporal authority over the city of Rome. 

Pope John XXIII presided over the Stations of the Cross at the Colosseum once in 1959. But it was not until 1964 with Pope Paul VI that the celebration became a permanent fixture of the pope’s Holy Week itinerary. 

In past years Pope Francis has entrusted the meditations to different groups and individuals reflecting a wide range of themes such as war and peace, migration, and the experience of the incarcerated.

Last year’s Way of the Cross was centered on the theme “Voices of Peace in a World at War,” incorporating the testimonies of victims of violence whom Pope Francis encountered during his international apostolic journeys over the past 10 years.

The full text of the meditations will be made available on Friday morning ahead of the service, which will begin at 9:15 p.m. Rome time.

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