A profound silence hangs over the 10,000 people present at the Colosseum. Above the crowd gathered in the night, and marked by thousands of small red candle lights at the foot of the monument whose silhouette is known throughout the world, a man dressed in white holds his head in his hands. Below, two blonde-haired women, looking into each other’s eyes, hold together a black wooden cross. One is Russian, the other Ukrainian.
This scene was one of those which marked, Good Friday April 15, the Stations of the Cross presided over by the Pope, and whose thirteenth and penultimate station had been entrusted to two nurses and friends, Irina and Albina, appeared together, looking both serious and emotional, to carry the crucifix. This choice has been at the center, in recent days, of an intense controversy in Ukraine, on the part of the political and religious authorities of kyiv. A controversy to which the Vatican has therefore decided to respond with prayer.
“In the face of death, silence speaks louder than words”could be heard echoing at the foot of the Colosseum, while the two young women had advanced to seize the cross. “Let us therefore pause in prayerful silence and let each one, in his heart, pray for peace in the world. » A text much more sober than that which had been initially planned, and published on April 11 by the Vatican.
“Disarm the raised hand of brother against brother”
“Death all around, could we read in the initial version of the texts of the celebration, published on April 11 by the Vatican. The life that seems to lose its value. Everything changes in seconds. Existence, days, carefree winter snow, picking up the kids from school, work, hugs, friendships… Everything. Everything suddenly loses its value. Where are you, Lord? Where are you hiding ? We want to get our life back. »
As for the Pope, who spoke at the very end of the Stations of the Cross, he prayed that “opponents shake hands” and “taste mutual forgiveness”. “Disarm the raised hand of brother against brother”implored Francis.
Despite this gesture of appeasement, consisting in limiting the text to a minimum in order to favor prayer and silence, several Ukrainian Catholic media had decided not to broadcast the Stations of the Cross on their antennas, contrary to their habit.
In kyiv, this choice provoked strong criticism, both from the Ukrainian government, through its ambassador, and from the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic authorities, accusing mezza voice to the pope to put the two countries on the same level, and to want to force Ukraine and Russia to reconciliation, while the war is in progress. A distancing that surprised the Vatican, where we had not anticipated the reluctance of kyiv, and especially their public expression.
The sound of bombs not far away
A few hours before the Stations of the Cross, Pope Francis had presided, in Saint-Pierre-de-Rome, the office of the Passion, during which the words of the preacher of the Pontifical Household, Cardinal Raniero Cantalamessa had also evoked the war . “This year, we celebrate Easter, not with the joyful sound of bells, but with the sound of bombs and explosions in our ears not far from here”noted the Italian cardinal.
He had also wondered about the absence of God in the world. “The word ‘God’ becomes an empty container that everyone can fill as they please, he noticed. But it is precisely for this that God took care to give content to his name: “The Word became flesh”. »
Easter celebrations are to continue in Rome, with the Easter Vigil on Saturday April 16 at 7:30 p.m., then Easter Mass the next day, Sunday April 17, at 10 a.m. The Pope will then deliver his traditional Urbi et Orbi blessing (on the City and on the world). So many opportunities for Francis to address the Ukrainian question again.