In a moving prayer in the Roman Colosseum Friday night, Pope Francis recalled the passion of Jesus Christ, comparing it to the suffering of persecuted Christians in the world today, after sending a telegram of condolence to the victims of the jihadist massacre of Christian students in Kenya.
“In you, divine love, we still see today our persecuted brothers, beheaded and crucified for their faith in you, before our eyes or often with our silent complicity,” he said.
On April 3, Christians celebrated “Good Friday,” the day commemorating Jesus’ passion and crucifixion, and Pope Francis led the Church of Rome in meditating on the traditional “Stations of the Cross,” a devotion that reflects on 14 key moments in Jesus’ passion. Popes traditionally preside over this devotion in the Roman Colosseum, a place of historic veneration of the martyrs of Rome.
“In Your obedience to the will of the Father,” Francis said in his prayer to Jesus, “we become aware of our rebellion and disobedience. In You—sold, betrayed, and crucified by Your people and Your loved ones—we see our daily betrayals and our habitual infidelities.”
“In Your innocence, immaculate Lamb, we see our guilt,” the Pope continued. “In Your face slapped, spat upon and disfigured, we see all the brutality of our sins. In the cruelties of Your Passion, we see the cruelty of our hearts and our actions. In Your feeling ‘abandoned,’ we see all those abandoned by their families and by society,” he said.
Earlier in the day, the Pope had sent a telegram to Cardinal John Njue, the president of the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops, expressing his sadness and condolences for the victims of the massacre of Christian students carried out by Islamist terrorists in Garissa on Thursday.
In the telegram, the Pope, in union “with all people of good will throughout the world,” condemned “this act of senseless brutality” and offered prayers “for a change of heart among its perpetrators.”
The Pope also called upon “all those in authority to redouble their efforts to work with all men and women in Kenya to bring an end to such violence and to hasten the dawn of a new era of brotherhood, justice, and peace.”
At the end of the Pope’s prayer on Friday night, he asked that Christians might experience “sorrow for our sins that will bring us to repent for our sins that crucified You.”
“Teach us,” he said, “that Good Friday is the road to Easter light; teach us that God never forgets any of His children and never tires of forgiving us and embracing us with His infinite mercy.”
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome.