Pope makes Nazi atrocities part of Stations of the Cross
Pope speaks of Nazi atrocities in Easter ritual
By Malcolm Moore in Rome
April 7, 2007 Daily Telegraph (UK)
The Pope shocked many Catholics last night with a dramatically revised version of the Stations of the Cross, one of the central rituals of the Easter ceremony. The ceremony, also known as the Via Crucis, recreates Jesus’s path on the day of his death from the Antonia fortress to Golgotha, where he was crucified.
The Pope carried the cross for the first and last of the 14 stops on a candle-lit procession around the Coliseum in Rome. However, this year the Pope chose to change both the route and the content of the ceremony. The Vatican said the changes were designed to reflect the gospels more truly and to link Jesus’s suffering with the suffering of mankind today.
One of the boldest changes came on the third stop, where Jesus is given up to Pontius Pilate by the Sanhedrin, a council of Jews. The Pope recalled the sentence that was passed over the Jews by the Nazis, and their suffering in concentration camps. He quoted Etty Hilesum, a Dutch Jew, who was executed in Auschwitz in 1943, saying: “We must oppose every new horror and crime with a new piece of the truth and goodness. We may suffer, but we must not succumb.”
Monsignor Gianfranco Ravasi, the prefect of the Ambrosian Library in Milan and a member of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, was asked by the Pope to update the ceremony. He said: “I did not want the ceremony just to be a simple recollection of a past event. I wanted worshippers to feel and live through the raw and bitter reality like a neighbour.”
The new changes also included cutting the stop where Jesus drops the Cross, as well as a reference to St Veronica, who mopped Jesus’s brow. St Veronica is merely apocryphal and not mentioned in the gospels.
However, a reference to Judas Iscariot was inserted for the first time because, in the words of Mgr Ravasi, “dawn follows night, out of darkness comes light, and after betrayal comes penitence.” Later, on the ninth stop, where Jesus met a group of women, the Pope spoke out against the suffering of “violated” women. He recalled the women “who have been subjected to tribal practices”, the mothers in crisis and alone, “the Jewish or Palestinian mothers and those in all lands ravaged by war, the widows and old ladies forgotten by their children”.The ceremony ended with St Matthew’s Passion by Bach.