VATICAN CITY, 22 APRIL 2011 (VIS) At 5:00 pm today, Good Friday, the Pope celebrated the Passion of the Lord in St. Peter’s basilica. Following the reading of the Passion according to St. John, in keeping with tradition, Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, O.F.M. Cap., Preacher of the Pontifical Household, pronounced the homily. This was followed by the universal prayer, adoration of the Holy Cross, and Holy Communion.

At 9:00 pm, the Holy Father travelled to the Colosseum to preside over the Via Crucis. This year’s texts were prepared by Sister Maria Rita Piccione, of the Order of Saint Augustine, from the Monastery of the Santissimi Quattro Coronati in Rome.

Benedict XVI continued the ceremony from the Palatine Hill. The cross was carried to the different stations by Cardinal Agostino Vallini, the Pope’s vicar for the diocese of Rome; a Roman family with five children (triplets and twins); a family from Ethiopia; two Augustinian nuns; a Franciscan and a youth from Egypt; and two Franciscan friars from the Custody of the Holy Land.

At the end of the ceremony, the Holy Father addressed those gathered: “Tonight we have relived, deep within our hearts, the drama of Jesus, weighed down by pain, by evil, by human sin.”

“But let us look more closely at that man crucified between earth and heaven. Let us contemplate him more intently, and we will realize that the cross is not the banner of the victory of death, sin and evil, but rather the luminous sign of love, of God’s immense love, of something that we could never have asked, imagined or expected: God bent down over us, he lowered himself, even to the darkest corner of our lives, in order to stretch out his hand and draw us to himself, to bring us all the way to himself. The cross speaks to us of the supreme love of God and invites, today, to renew our faith in the power of that love, and to believe that in every situation of our lives, our history and our world, God is able to vanquish death, sin and evil, and to give us new, risen life. In the Son of God’s death on the cross, we find the seed of new hope for life, like the seed which dies within the earth”.

Finally, the Pope invited us to “gaze on the crucified Jesus”, and to “ask in prayer: Enlighten our hearts, Lord, that we may follow you along the way of the cross. Put to death in us the ‘old man’ bound by selfishness, evil and sin. Make us ‘new men’, men and women of holiness, transformed and enlivened by your love”.

BXVI-HOLY WEEK/                                                            VIS 20110427 (460)