According to a note issued by the Holy See through the secretary of State of the Vatican Cardinal Bertone , the Pope has appointed the Maronite patriarch to write and prepare the meditations for the Stations of the Cross he will preside over - as he does every year - on the evening of Good Friday in Rome’s Coliseum. Cardinal Béchara Rai was entrusted with the task – the note explains – and the texts will be prepared under the guidance of the Maronite patriarch, by two Lebanese young people and will follow the traditional 14 Stations. The note also specifies what pushed the Pope to make this choice: “Inviting the whole Church to remember the Middle East, its problems and Christian communities in the land, in their prayers.”
|The Way of the cross at the Coliseum|
It is the first time since the rite was reintroduced by Paul VI in 1964 that young people have been asked to write the texts for the Stations of the Cross at the Coliseum. The fact that the Pope made this choice ahead of this year’s World Youth Day celebrations in Rio de Janeiro is significant. There appears to be in continuity with last year, when the Pope chose a married couple, Anna Maria and Danilo Zanzucchi for the task, ahead of the World Meeting of Families in Milan. Obviously, the most striking thing about Benedict XVI’s choice is that the young people are Lebanese. The Pope visited Lebanon last September to promulgate the Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in the Middle East. The Pope’s meeting with young people on the field in front of the Maronite Patriarchate of Bkerké was one of the key moments of the trip. Among the groups of young people present, there were some Christians who had come from Syria. Benedict XVI’s message to them was: “Tell your families and friends back home that the Pope has not forgotten you. Tell those around you that the Pope is saddened by your sufferings and your griefs. He does not forget Syria in his prayers and concerns, he does not forget those in the Middle East who are suffering. It is time for Muslims and Christians to come together so as to put an end to violence and war.”
It is easy to imagine that today’s ordeal will be reflected in the texts that the two young people from Lebanon (whose identity is yet to be revealed) are preparing together with Cardinal Béchara Rai. Lebanon experiences the repercussions of the struggle in Damascus first hand both because of Lebanon’s fragile political balance and because of the hundreds and thousands of Syrian refugees making their way to its borders to flee the war.
But the Pope’s choice is not just intended as a reminder to the world about the tragedy of war and fundamentalism. The choice of the young Lebanese people to come up with the texts for the Stations of the Cross in the Year of Faith also appears to be a way to see whether the Christian message can reach the hearts of a generation that even in Beirut today feels the pull of secularisation.
Hence, in the speech he delivered in Bkerké, the Pope invited the young people of Lebanon not to seek escape through drugs and pornography in the face of all the current upheavals. He also asked the social network generation to develop “initiatives that give meaning and a basis to your existence, contrasting superficiality and easy consumerism.”