Pope pre­sides over Good Fri­day pro­ces­sion at Rome’s Colos­seum

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL - BY FRANCES D’EMILIO

Pope Fran­cis, pre­sid­ing at the tra­di­tional Good Fri­day Colos­seum pro­ces­sion, de­cried what he called the “com­plicit si­lence” about the killing of Chris­tians.

The evening, torch-lit cer­e­mony at the an­cient arena re­calls the suf­fer­ing and death of Je­sus by cru­ci­fix­ion.

Af­ter lis­ten­ing silently, of­ten with head bowed and eyes tightly shut, to re­flec­tions read aloud about Je­sus’ suf­fer­ing, Fran­cis pressed what lately has been an ur­gent con­cern of his pa­pacy — the present-day mar­tyr­dom of Chris­tians in parts of the Mid­dle East, Africa and else­where.

“We see, even to­day, our broth­ers per­se­cuted, be­headed and cru­ci­fied, for their faith in you, in front of our eyes or of­ten with our com­plicit si­lence,” he said, as he prayed.

A few hours ear­lier, Fran­cis had con­demned the deadly attack by Is­lamic mil­i­tants tar­get­ing Chris­tians at a Kenyan uni­ver­sity. Ear­lier this year he de­nounced the mur­der in Libya of 21 Cop­tic Chris­tians by Is­lamic State-af­fil­i­ated mil­i­tants, say­ing they were slain sim­ply for be­ing Chris­tian. And he has lamented how Chris­tians in parts of the Mid­dle East have been forced to flee their an­cient com­mu­ni­ties to es­cape per­se­cu­tion.

Among those cho­sen to take turns car­ry­ing the light­weight, slen­der cross in the pro­ces­sion were faith­ful from Iraq, Syria, Nige­ria, Egypt and China.

One of the prayers dur­ing the pro­ces­sion called for the “fun­da­men­tal right of re­li­gious free­dom” to spread through­out the world.

In an­other re­flec­tion, a lec­tor said “our con­science is trou­bled. We anx­iously ask: When will the death penalty, still prac­ticed in many states, be abol­ished?” There was also an ap­peal for the end of all tor­ture.

Tens of thou­sands of tourists, pil­grims and Ro­mans held can­dles as they joined in the prayers on a warm night.

Fran­cis will cel­e­brate Easter vigil Mass Satur­day night in St. Peter’s Basil­ica. On Easter Sun­day morn­ing, he will cel­e­brate Mass in St. Peter’s Square.

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