In Rome, the Way of the Cross on Good Friday brings together a Russian and a Ukrainian and is controversial

The illuminated Colosseum, the picture is stunning. Pope Francis presided over the Stations of the Cross in front of the Colosseum in Rome on Friday, April 15. The sovereign Pope had not done so for three years. A culmination of Holy Week which, according to Christian tradition, brings to life Christ’s Calvary from his death sentence to his crucifixion, death and burial. but Stations of the Cross is the subject of controversy: among those charged with carrying the crucifix at each of the 14 stations are two women, a Russian and a Ukrainian, life friends who have carried the cross together.

The 14 stations of the Via crucis follow each other, first inside, then outside the Colosseum to join the Pope, who hasn’t moved. At every station A young couple, elderly spouses with no children, a large family, a widow with her children, or even a family that has lost a daughter take turns reading a text. At the 13th ward, the Russian nurse and the Ukrainian nurse carry the cross together as planned, but in the end not a word is spoken the originally planned text was intended to address the war in Ukraine.

“In the face of death, silence speaks louder than words. So let us pause in prayerful silence and let each of us pray in our hearts for peace in the world.”

Silence for more than a minute as the young Russian and the young Ukrainian bring their faces closer to the cross they carry together, but in silence. The Pope, he takes his face in his hands, he prays, no doubt, and still closes it Stations of the Cross with this prayer: “Lead the adversaries to shake hands so that they may taste mutual forgiveness.

The scene, intended as a gesture of reconciliation in the face of the war that has been ravaging the country since February 24, has angered Ukrainian officials. On Tuesday, the head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, Monsignor Svyatoslav Shevchuk, condemned a “untimely, premature and ambiguous idea that does not take into account the context of Russia’s military aggression”. This, in turn, was said by the Ambassador of Ukraine to the Holy See “Share the general concern”. And the Ukrainian media boycotted the broadcast of the ceremony, while the Vatican added commentary in Ukrainian and Russian for the Weltbild program.

The Vatican sends aggressors and attacks back-to-back, a rhetoric of fratricidal war that Ukrainians no longer support. But the pope wants to be a pastor and not a politician.

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