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Why St. John Paul II introduced the Scriptural Stations of the Cross

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Philip Kosloski - published on 04/04/22

In 1991, St. John Paul II introduced an alternative Scriptural Stations of the Cross, focusing on events that are specifically mentioned in the Bible.

The Stations of the Cross, also called the “Way of the Cross,” is an ancient tradition of retracing the steps of Jesus during his Passion and death.

The tradition began during the years following Jesus’ death, but didn’t have a particular formula until the 17th century, when Franciscans promoted it throughout the world.

At that point, the Stations of the Cross became solidified as follows:

  • 1st Station: Jesus is condemned to death.
  • 2nd Station: Jesus accepts the cross.
  • 3rd Station: Jesus falls the first time.
  • 4th Station: Jesus meets His mother.
  • 5th Station: Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry His cross.
  • 6th Station: Veronica wipes the face of Jesus.
  • 7th Station: Jesus falls the second time.
  • 8th Station: Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem
  • 9th Station: Jesus falls a third time.
  • 10th Station: Jesus is stripped of His clothes.
  • 11th Station: Jesus is crucified.
  • 12th Station: Jesus dies on the cross.
  • 13th Station: The body of Jesus is taken down from the cross.
  • 14th Station: Jesus is laid in the tomb.

A few of those stations, such as the three falls and the meeting with Veronica, are legends that have been passed down over the centuries. They could have happened, but there is no scriptural basis for them.

In 1991, St. John Paul II introduced an alternative set of stations, not meant to replace the traditional stations, but to be another way of following Jesus last steps to Calvary.

These stations are focused solely on the events that are recorded in the Bible.

1st Station: Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.
2nd Station: Jesus is betrayed by Judas and arrested.
3rd Station: Jesus is condemned by the Sanhedrin.
4th Station: Jesus is denied by St. Peter.
5th Station: Jesus is judged by Pontius Pilate.
6th Station: Jesus is scourged at the pillar and crowned with thorns.
7th Station: Jesus Bears the Cross.
8th Station: Jesus is helped by Simon the Cyrenian to carry the cross.
9th Station: Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem.
10th Station: Jesus is crucified.
11th Station: Jesus promises his kingdom to the good thief.
12th Station: Jesus speaks to his mother and the beloved disciple.
13th Station: Jesus dies on the cross.
14th Station: Jesus is laid in the tomb.

Pope Benedict XVI occasionally would use this set of stations, composing his own reflections on them in 2007.

Again, St. John Paul II didn’t introduce these to be a permanent replacement, but to give another alternative for Christians looking to enter into the events of Jesus’ Passion and death.

There have been many alternatives over the centuries, and this one by St. John Paul II is one option among many, but has become a favorite for some who like to use biblical passages to dive deeper into Jesus’ Passion.

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