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Good Friday 1979

Pope St John Paul II's words at the end of the Via Crucis
Colosseum, Rome - Good Friday, 13th April 1979 - also in French, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"1. When we walk the Way of the Cross from one station to the next, in our spirit we are always present where this pathway had its “historical" place: there where it took place along the streets of Jerusalem, from the Praetorium of Pilate all the way to the hill of Golgotha, or Calvary, outside the city walls.

In this way, therefore, we too today have been in our spirit in the City of the "great King”, who as sign of his kingship chose the crown of thorns instead of the royal crown, and the Cross instead of the throne.

Was not Pilate right when, showing him to the people, who awaited his condemnation before the Praetorium "so that they might not be defiled, but might eat the passover" (Jn 18, 28), he did not say "Here is the king" but "'Here is the man" (Jn 19, 5)? And in this way he revealed the programme of Christ's kingdom, which wants to be free from the attributes of earthly power so as to reveal the thoughts of many hearts (cf Lk 2, 35) and so as to bring near to them the Truth and Love that come from God.

"My kingdom is not of this world... For this I was born and for this I came into the world: so as to bear witness to the truth" (Jn 18, 36-37).

This witness has remained at the corners of the ways of Jerusalem, at the windings of the "Via Crucis" there where he walked, where he fell three times, where he accepted the help of Simon of Cyrene and the veil of Veronica, there where he spoke to some women who were weeping for him.

We still eager for this witness today. We want to know all its details. We follow the footsteps of the "Via Crucis" in Jerusalem and in many other places of our globe, and each time we seem to repeat to this Condemned man, to this Man of sorrows: "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life" (Jn 6, 68).

2. Make the "Via Crucis" at the Colosseum in Rome, we are still in the footsteps of Christ, whose Cross was found in the hearts of his martyrs and confessors. They announced Christ crucified as "the power of God and the wisdom of God" (1 Cor 1, 24). Together with Christ they took up the Cross each day (cf Lk 9, 23), and when it was necessary they died like him on the cross or died in the arenas of ancient Rome, torn apart by wild animals, burnt alive, tortured. The power of God and the wisdom of God revealed in the cross were thus more powerfully manifested in human weakness. Not only did they accept sufferings and death for Christ, but they decided together with him to love their persecutors and enemies: "Father, forgive them, because they do not know what they are doing" (Lk 23, 34).

This is why upon the ruins of the Colosseum there
stands the Cross. Looking at this Cross, the cross of the beginnings of the Church in this capital city and the cross of her history, we must feel and express a particularly deep solidarity with all our brothers and sisters in the faith, who also in our era/epoch are subjected to persecution(s) and discrimination(s) in various places on earth. We think above all of those who are condemned, in a certain sense, to "civil death" by denial of their right to live according to their own faith, their own rite, according to their own religious conditions. Looking at the Cross in the Colosseum we ask Christ that they — like those who once suffered martyrdom here — may not lack the power of the Spirit, which is needed by the confessors and martyrs of our own times.

Looking at the Cross in the Colosseum, we feel an even deeper union with them, an even stronger solidarity. As Christ has a particular place in our hearts through his Passion, so too do they. We have the duty to speak about this passion of his contemporary confessors, and to bear witness to them before the conscience of all humanity, which proclaims the cause of man as the main purpose of every progress. How can one reconcile these affirmations with the injury done to so many men/people, who — gazing at the cross of Christ— confess God and proclaim his love?

3. Jesus Christ, we are about to conclude this holy day of Good Friday at the foot of your cross. Just as once in Jerusalem at the foot of the cross there stood your Mother, John, Mary Magdalen and other women, so do we stand here. We are deeply moved by the importance of the moment. We cannot find the words to express all that our hearts feel.

This evening, when — after you had been taken down from the cross they laid you in a tomb at the foot of Calvary — we wish to ask you to stay with us through your Cross:

You, who through the cross took leave of us.
We ask you to stay with the Church;
to stay with humanity;
not to be dismayed if many, perhaps,
pass by your cross with indifference,
if some go away from it,
and others do not reach it.
And yet, perhaps, never so much as today
has man had need of this power
and this wisdom that you yourself are,
You alone: through your Cross!
So stay with us
in this deep mystery
of your death,
in which you revealed how much
"God loved the world" (Jn 3, 16).
Stay with us and draw us to yourself (cf Jn 13:32),
You who under this Cross fell.
Stay with us through your Mother,
to whom from the Cross you entrusted
in a particular way every man (cf Jn l9, 27).
Stay with us!

Stat Crux, dum volvitur orbis! Yes, "the Cross stands high upon the world as it goes round!"