Text at the pope’s Good Friday service scrapped after Ukrainian protest

Ukrainian and Russian women wear a cross as they take part in the Via Cruci (Cross Road) procession during the Good Friday celebrations at the Colosseum in Rome, Italy, on April 15, 2022. REUTERS / Guglielmo Mangiapane TPX TODAY’S PICTURES

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ROME, April 15 (Reuters) – A Ukrainian and a Russian woman attended Pope Francis’ Good Friday “The Way of the Cross”, but the meditation they wrote was scrapped after Ukrainians protested, saying the war made it inappropriate .

The traditional Via Crucis procession at Rome’s Colosseum had become embroiled in controversy earlier in the week when the program showed the two friends, a nurse and a nursing student at a Rome hospital, would attend.

The candlelight service consists of the 14 cross stations, stages between the death sentence and his funeral. It is often adapted so that those who carry the cross from one station to the next reflect world events.

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Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, leader of Ukraine’s Catholic Church with Byzantine ritual, called their inclusion inappropriate and ambiguous because it did not “take into account the context of Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine”.

The original text of the meditation the two women had written spoke of death, loss of values, rage, resignation and reconciliation despite bombings.

Shevchuk said the text, which had been approved by the Vatican, was “incoherent and even offensive, especially in the context of the expected second, even bloodier attack by Russian troops on our towns and villages”.

Ukraine’s ambassador to the Vatican, Andrii Yurash, also expressed his concern.

On Friday night, the original text of about 200 words was replaced with two sentences: “Faced with death, silence is the most eloquent word. Let us all stop in silent prayer and each pray in their hearts for peace in the world”.

The crowd of several thousand people then remained silent for about as long as it would have taken to read the original, longer meditation.

Francis sat and watched the procession sitting on a white chair.

In his own last prayer, he asked God to allow “opponents to give a hand so that they can taste mutual forgiveness, to disarm the hand that a brother raised against a brother so that agreement can spring from which there is now hatred.”

Since the war began, Francis has only mentioned Russia explicitly in prayers, such as during a special global peace event on March 25. But he has made clear his opposition to Russia’s actions by using the words invasion, aggression and atrocities.

Moscow calls it actions in Ukraine for a “special military operation” designed not to occupy territory but to demilitarize and “denazify” the country. Francis has implicitly rejected this definition.

The war in Ukraine is expected to continue to cast a shadow over the pope’s remaining Holy Week activities.

Saturday night, Francis leads an Easter vigil in the basilica.

Easter Day, the most important day in the Christian liturgical calendar, he will say Mass in St. Peter’s Square and then deliver his twice-annual “Urbi et Orbi” (to the city and the world) message and blessing.

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Reporting by Philip Pullella Editing by Nick Zieminski

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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