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RELIGION

Children lead the way in Italy’s reduced Good Friday service

Pope Francis held a scaled down 'Way of the Cross' service on Friday in a quiet St. Peter's Square due to Italy's lockdown measures. The poignant procession saw children take the spotlight to share their dreams and fears.

Children lead the way in Italy's reduced Good Friday service
A girl hands the Cross to Pope Francis as he leads the celebration of the Way of the Cross (Via Crucis) as part of Good Friday on April 2, 2021 at St. Peter's square in the Vatican, during the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by Angelo CARCONI / POOL / AFP)

Rome’s famous Via Crucis religious service commemorated the final hours of Jesus’ life in an empty St. Peter’s Square, cleared out of tourists in compliance with coronavirus restrictions.

Crowds numbering tens of thousands usually attend the torchlit vigil, but this year only around 200 people looked on at a distance.

READ ALSO: Why is Good Friday not a holiday in Italy?

Candles were placed across the square in front of St. Peter’s Basilica to form the shape of a cross. The tradition goes that the Pope moves around the 14 Stations of the Cross, saying meditations at each one.

Children and young people of Rome observe the Stations of the Cross during the celebration of the Way of the Cross (Via Crucis) led by Pope Francis (Rear C) as part of Good Friday on April 2, 2021 at St. Peter’s square in the Vatican, during the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP)

This year, children wrote these prayers. Boy and girl scouts from Umbria and schoolchildren from Rome read out their worship, stopping at each Station as a group.

Each prayer related the experiences of children to those of Jesus. In a moving homage to the 13th Station, when Jesus was believed to be taken down from the cross, a child told a story of an ambulance coming to take his grandfather away, who later died of Covid-19.

READ ALSO: Six Easter-inspired Italian phrases explained

Children and young people of Rome (L) observe the Stations of the Cross during the celebration of the Way of the Cross (Via Crucis) led by Pope Francis (Rear C) as part of Good Friday. (Photo by ANDREAS SOLARO / AFP)

It’s the second consecutive year the proceedings didn’t take place at the capital’s Colosseum, which by now have become an Easter tradition since Pope Paul VI brought back the service in 1964.

Easter Masses are due to be held across the Easter weekend, culminating in the key date on the Christian calendar, Easter Sunday, when the Pope delivers his message, “Urbi et Orbi” (to the city and the world).

Member comments

  1. What a fantastic informative website.
    For my wife and I stranded in New Zealand since October 2019 because of Covid, and unable to return to our holiday home in Lunigiana, it really is a lifeline to the magic of Italy with its proud culinary heritage, amazing old buildings and fascinating culture.

    Richard Mortlock

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RELIGION

Pope to create new cardinals who may choose successor at Vatican City ceremony

Pope Francis will on Saturday create 20 new cardinals picked from the four corners of the world, most of whom could one day end up choosing the pontiff's successor.

Pope to create new cardinals who may choose successor at Vatican City ceremony

Francis has raised the possibility of retiring due to his declining health, a path taken by his predecessor Benedict XVI. If he were to do so, a conclave involving all cardinals aged under 80 would be called to pick a successor.

Sixteen of the 20 cardinals created Saturday would be eligible for that conclave based on their ages.

The ceremony at St. Peter’s Basilica is the 85-year-old pope’s eighth since being elected in 2013 and includes clergy known for their pastoral work and, in some cases, progressive views.

All parts of the globe are represented, including new cardinals from Brazil and Nigeria, Singapore and East Timor, among others.

After this weekend, Francis will have chosen 83 out of the 132 cardinals currently qualified to elect a new pope. That is, nearly two-thirds of the total and precisely the percentage needed for any proposed name to pass.

In recent months, the pope has been forced to rely on a wheelchair due to knee pain, which he has said is inoperable.

He also suffers from sciatica, a chronic nerve condition that causes pain in his hip.

Future clues

The new cardinals are always scrutinised by Vatican observers for clues as to the future direction of the Church and its 1.3 billion faithful.

Experts caution, however, that cardinals named by one pope do not necessarily choose successors in their likeness.

The Argentine pontiff has this year completed a major shake-up of the Vatican’s powerful governing body, the Roman Curia, which makes winning new converts a priority.

In keeping with his focus on making the Church more inclusive, transparent and responsive to the needs of the poor and marginalised, Francis has chosen two Africans and five Asians, including two cardinals who hail from India.

Vatican expert Bernard Lecomte told AFP the pope’s choices are “representative of the Church today, with a large spot for the southern hemisphere”, where 80 percent of the world’s Catholics live.

Virgilio Do Carmo Da Silva, the archbishop of Dili, will on Saturday become the first cardinal of tiny East Timor, an overwhelmingly Catholic nation in Southeast Asia.

The pope has also felt free to bypass the archbishops of major cities to choose those from less powerful seats, such as Robert McElroy, the 68-year-old bishop of San Diego, California.

McElroy has supported gay Catholics and criticised moves to deny Communion to US politicians — like President Joe Biden — who support abortion.

The pope will also create the youngest cardinal in the world, 48-year-old Italian missionary Giorgio Marengo, who works in Mongolia.

The new crop of cardinals also includes Nigeria’s Peter Okpaleke, the bishop of Ekwulobia, and Leonardo Ulrich Steiner, archbishop of Manaus, Brazil.

The 80-year-old bishop emeritus of Ghent, Lucas Van Looy, had been nominated but asked to be exempted following criticism of his handling of child sexual abuse by priests in Belgium.

Saturday’s ceremony at the Vatican will be followed by the traditional “courtesy visit,” in which the general public is invited to greet the new cardinals.

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