Pope Good Friday service underscores plight of the suffering

Fri Apr 18, 2014 5:27pm EDT
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By Philip Pullella

ROME (Reuters) - The plight of immigrants, the poor, the sick, the elderly, unemployed and prisoners dominated Pope Francis' Good Friday service at Rome's Colosseum as he led Catholics around the world in commemorating the day Jesus died.

The pope, in the run-up to the second Easter of his pontificate, presided at the traditional "Via Crucis" (Way of the Cross) service around the ancient Roman ruin.

Sitting on a chair on the Palatine Hill just opposite the Colosseum and often kneeling to pray, he listened intently as meditations inspired by the 14 "stations of the cross" were read to the crowd of thousands holding candles.

Pairs of immigrants, prisoners, homeless, elderly, women, disabled, former drug addicts and others alternated carrying a large cross between each of the stations which describe the main events in the last hours of Jesus' life.

This year's meditations were written by Italian Archbishop Giancarlo Maria Bregantini, who has been in the front line in the fight against organised crime in southern Italy and one of the country's most socially progressive Churchmen.

One spoke of "all those wrongs which created the economic crisis and its grave social consequences: job insecurity, unemployment, dismissals, an economy that rules rather than serves, financial speculation, suicide among business owners, corruption and usury, the loss of local industry."

Others spoke of the plight of battered women, abused children, home-bound and lonely elderly, prisoners who endure torture, victims of organised crime and loansharks.

BED OF PAIN   Continued...

Pope Francis prays during the Celebration of the Lord's Passion in Saint Peter's Basilica at the Vatican April 18, 2014. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini