Creative staging in Lisbon marked one of the most important events of every World Youth Day: the Friday Via Crucis. (Video and images)
Some 800,000 young people – according to the Lisbon municipality – converged one last time in the Eduardo VII Park for the Way of the Cross, opened by a short, spontaneous meditation by Pope Francis. Introducing the event, the Pope invited young Catholics to hand over their “anxieties” and “loneliness” to Christ.
Setting aside the pages of his prepared speech, the Pope encouraged the pilgrims to allow themselves to be consoled by Jesus. He then invited the young people, who had come from all over the globe, to ask themselves if there are “things in life that make [them] cry,” and suggested that they silently entrust them to Christ.
The 14 stations of the Way of the Cross were then presented through meditations and modern choreography, carried out on the multi-level structure set up behind the papal podium. The texts focused on the contemporary suffering of young people, touching on themes such as anguish over uncertain futures and drug addiction.
The pilgrim cross was raised and lowered among the dancers, who used various props to add to the presentation. For example, a white cloth gave the image of Jesus being taken down from the cross, and then poignantly was transformed in the hands of the female actors into the swaddling clothes with which Mary received her babe in arms.
Noeline, who came with a group of 1,300 minors from the Emmanuel Community, was very moved by “the beauty of the songs and the choreography around the cross; it was magnificent,” she said enthusiastically. “I hadn’t had many opportunities to celebrate the Way of the Cross, so to experience it at WYD will remain engraved in my memory,” she insists.
“Christ comes to help us move toward Him”
Within the same group, Jeanne added that “the texts of the Way of the Cross were very well chosen, with very concrete examples that relate to our current problems, which are very much in line with what the Lord experienced. He shows us the way to overcome our problems.”
Their group leader, Etienne, said he was “very touched by the testimonies,” which echoed his own life and showed that “Christ comes to save us, to help us move toward Him. It’s an extremely poignant parallel.”
Father Patryk Stolarek, a priest from the diocese of Wroclaw in Poland and a student in Rome, is accompanying around 50 young people to the Lisbon WYD. For him, the Way of the Cross expresses “the experience of suffering,” but how it goes beyond as well. It is “a suffering that then passes into new life,” Father Patryk explains.
He expressed his hopes that this Via Crucis will help the young people in his group to understand that “there are moments when we fall, where we must go forward: there are moments of crucifixion, but at the end there is the moment of the Resurrection,” he underlines.
For Ivan, 23, a Cameroonian living in France, this celebration is “a symbol that Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins and that every Christian, every human being, must recognize that they have weaknesses and sins, and that they must seek to improve their faith if they hope to join the Kingdom of God.”
The texts from the vigil helped him to think about his future and his place in society as a young person. “It really goes straight to my heart to see that the Catholic Church is encouraging young people to continue along this path,” he explains.
The Lebanese: a sign of hope in the Resurrection
Caroline, age 34, comes from the Beqaa valley in Lebanon. She was very moved to be taking part in this Way of the Cross on August 4, the anniversary of the explosion in the port of Beirut. She experienced the moment “as a tribute to all the dead, the wounded, and those who were affected by the explosion.”
The presence of 450 young Lebanese at WYD is a miracle and a sign of hope in the resurrection, she thinks. “It shows that we are a country that truly lives the faith,” she concludes, explaining she is very touched by the kindness and generosity of the young pilgrims who come to see her when they recognize her Lebanese flag.
The Lebanese population is going through a political and economic Way of the Cross, but “all Lebanese are resilient people who fight. Even if we go through terrible things, we will always get up again, sooner or later. We trust in God and we stand firm,” she assures.
The video below is a 2-minute summary of the event.