Pope Hears Tales of Suffering, Abuse at Colosseum Easter Ritual
March 25, 2016
Tens of thousands of faithful bearing candles prayed at an Easter ritual at Rome's ancient Colosseum on Friday, where they and Pope Francis were told of the suffering of rejected migrants, sexually abused children and slaves.
Security was tight at the former gladiator battle ground, where a small group of believers carried a cross between 14 "stations" evoking the last hours of Jesus's life during the traditional Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) procession.
Francis, 79, sat under a red canopy next to a large cross as he listened gravely to a lengthy meditation written by Italian Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti.
Two Syrians were joined by fellow Russian, Chinese, and Central African believers in carrying the wooden cross at the historic arena, where thousands of Christians are believed to have been killed in Roman times.
"How many fears there are in life! Fears of those who are different, foreign, migrant," Bassetti said, deploring "the millions of refugees desperately fleeing the horror of war, persecution and dictatorship".
Francis has long called for the global community to open its doors to refugees and fight xenophobia -- appeals which have intensified since a controversial deal between Europe and Turkey to expel migrants arriving by boat in Greece.
The archbishop also denounced "the wounds of children desecrated in their intimacy" through paedophilia, and the fate of women who become "objects of exploitation".
He called for the prayers of those present "for Christians killed in hatred of their faith" and spoke of the darkest moments of humanity, where belief in God is most deeply shaken.
"Where is God in the extermination camps? Where is God in the mines and factories where children work as slaves? Where is God in makeshift boats that sink in the sea?", he said in reference to the migrant vessels and the many who have drowned.
Good Friday is the second of four intensive days in the Christian calendar culminating in Easter Sunday, which commemorates Christ's resurrection.
On Saturday, the pontiff will take part in an evening Easter vigil in St Peter's Basilica, before celebrating Easter mass on Sunday and pronouncing the traditional "Urbi et Orbi" blessing to Rome and the world.