Rome: The Ukrainian crisis overshadowed Pope Francis’ “Way of the Cross” prayer event at Rome’s Colosseum on Friday.
Due to the COVID epidemic, the Roman monument has not hosted the annual Good Friday celebration since 2019.
It’s also two days before Easter, the Christian main holiday.
The pope hoped that “adversaries would clasp hands” and “experience mutual forgiveness” after repeatedly condemning the Ukrainian war.
“Disarm the raised hand of brother against brother,” he said.
“I have lived in Rome for more than 30 years but today it seemed very important to come,” said Stefania Cutolo, 52, an Italian teacher.
“The message tonight, after two years of closure due to the pandemic, is doubly important. In this context where nationalism is returning to Europe, we must act,” she added.
In front of 10,000 faithful, the Pope launched this Holy Week highlight at 9pm (1900 GMT).
The Way of the Cross has been held at Saint Peter’s Square in the Vatican for the last two years, with minimal attendance due to the health crisis.
“We meet the whole world here, we hear all languages. It’s marvelous,” Marie-Agnes Bethouart, 71, arrived with her husband and two grandsons on Friday.
Among the candles, a yellow and blue flag stood out. These are Ukraine’s colours.
Two women, one Russian and the other Ukrainian, were among the families entrusted with bearing the crucifix at each of the 14 stations of the cross.
The women carried the cross throughout one of the 14 stations of Jesus’ suffering and death, from his sentencing until his burial.