Benedict prepares for Colosseum Way of the Cross

In the shadows of Rome's torch-lit Colosseum, Benedict XVI will tomorrow lead the first Way of the Cross service of his pontificate.

Catholic News Service reports that this year, the Vatican has taken special care to help faithful watching the event on television follow it prayerfully.

While tens of thousands of copies of the meditations and prayers are given to pilgrims and tourists at the Colosseum, in the past the millions of people watching on television could get the text only by going to the Vatican website as the rite was about to begin.

For the first time, this year the Vatican publishing house sent 103,000 copies of the booklets to bookstores throughout Italy. And Germany's Herder publishing house simultaneously released a German translation of the text.

In addition, the Vatican this week posted the original Italian version on its website (www.vatican.va) along with several translations.

Pope Benedict asked Archbishop Angelo Comastri, his vicar for Vatican City State, to write the meditations for the 2006 nighttime ritual.

Each year the pope asks a different person to write a commentary and prayers to help people realise that even today the sin and evil that led to Christ's suffering and death continue.

In the 2005 meditations, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger focused on how people, including those who call themselves Christians, push God to the margins of their lives, ignoring traditional moral values. But he also mentioned "the filth" and sins of church members, including abusive priests.

Just as the Way of the Cross focuses on Christ's suffering with full awareness that he rose from the dead, the reflections on human sinfulness are accompanied by prayers for forgiveness and confidence that goodness and holiness will be victorious.

Archbishop Comastri, in this year's meditations, was no less contemporary in looking at the sins and divisions that, he said, add weight to the cross Christ must bear.

But he also drew from Pope Benedict's first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est ("God is Love") to remind those who follow the Stations of the Cross that Christ's death and resurrection are the supreme sign of God's love and his desire to forgive.

"In his death, Jesus filled death itself with love; he filled it with the presence of God," the archbishop wrote in the introduction.

He asked participants at the Colosseum to join in praying that God would break the chains that keep people from helping one another and showing concern for one another.

"Our affluence is making us less human, our entertainment has become a drug, a source of alienation, and our society's incessant, tedious message is an invitation to die of selfishness," the archbishop wrote.

Because Christ is divine, he wrote, the fact that he fell under the weight of the cross "cannot be a sign of weakness, but only a sign of love: a message of love for us," a warning of the power and weight of sin.

In presenting the stations and looking at modern sins, Archbishop Comastri denounced threats to the traditional family, prostitution, abortion, the manipulation of human embryos and the growing divide between the world's rich and poor.

Archbishop Comastri wrote, "the family is one of God's dreams entrusted to humanity; the family is a spark from heaven shared with all mankind: the family is the cradle where we were born and are constantly reborn in love."

Way of the Cross: Simple service at Colosseum has global reach (Catholic News Service 11/4/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Way of the Cross at the Colosseum, Good Friday 2006 (Office for the Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff)

Easter: certainty that evil does not have the last word (Vatican Information Service 12/4/06 - temporary url)
Pope: Easter reveals "evil does not have the last word; the risen Christ triumphs" (AsiaNews.it 12/4/06)
Pope Benedict: Easter liturgy assures us that evil does not have last word (Catholic News Agency 12/4/06)
Christ conquers evil, Pope reminds audience (Catholic World News 12/4/06)
Total attendance breaks 1 million for Pope Benedict's audiences (Catholic World News 12/4/06)
Pope will wash laymen's feet (Catholic World News 12/4/06)
Papal Influence in Europe Intensifies (The Trumpet 12/4/06)
Benedict XVI General Audience - text (12/4/06)
Text for "Way of the Cross" at Colosseum (Zenit 11/4/06)
Pope's Address After Viewing Film on John Paul II (Zenit 11/4/06)
Benedict XVI's March 26 Homily at Roman Parish (Zenit 11/4/06)

13 Apr 2006