The controversy broke out where least expected: around the Way of the Cross over which Pope Francis presides this Good Friday, at the Coliseum in Rome. The reason lies in the fact that, at one of the stations, the cross of Christ is carried by the families of two women, one Russian and one Ukrainian.
As soon as the content of the ceremony’s script was known, the unease on the Ukrainian side began to be felt, with exponents in the Archbishop of Kyiv and the Ukrainian ambassador to the Holy See. It was useless to know that the two women in question work at the same institution of social solidarity and, moreover, are friends.
The Way of the Cross guide, which became known a few days ago, reveals that, for the 14 stations, families were chosen in different situations and having lived different experiences, as a way of evoking the encyclical Amoris Laetitia, on its fifth anniversary. In the penultimate station, corresponding to the death of Jesus, the Vatican wanted to symbolically place the coexistence and friendship between the warring parties precisely at the moment when the highest point of this “Major Week” is celebrated if the Resurrection is excluded.
It is foreseen that, at that moment, the two women will say a prayer in which they allude to “deaths everywhere”, “to life that seems to lose value”, to routines suddenly interrupted, to tears that have already run out, directly questioning God. : “Where are you, Lord? Where did you hide? We want our life back. Why all this? What fault do we have? Why did you abandon us? Why did you separate our families like this?” And they ask, in conclusion: “In the silence of death and division, speak and teach us to make peace, to be brothers and sisters, to rebuild what the bombs want to annihilate”.
The 13th season’s costumes were featured in Vatican News, this Monday, 11th, translated into several languages. The buzz rose and spread, casting concerns in the Vatican. The proof was that Father Antonio Spadaro, director of the magazine La Civiltà Cattolica and close to the Pope, unfolded himself in statements to the media and in an article in Il Manifesto, in which he sought to defuse the contestation. The main idea is this: “Let us understand one thing precisely: Francis is a pastor, not a politician”. And this Wednesday, the 12th, he quoted a tweet from the Pope that noted that “the Lord (…) does not divide us into good and bad, into friends and enemies. To Him we are all beloved children.” “It is terrible and scandalous, but it is the gospel of Christ”, underlined Spadaro in this regard.
Ukrainians remember the episode of Abel and Cain
Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, leader of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church, says he has received numerous appeals from the faithful of the Church and civil society, at home and abroad, to comment on the papal Way of the Cross, is not on this pitch.
Shevchuk’s comment was released by the Church’s communications department in these terms:
“I find this idea inappropriate and ambiguous, as it does not take into account the context of Russian military aggression against Ukraine. For Greek Catholics in Ukraine, the texts and gestures of the 13th station of this Way of the Cross are incomprehensible and even offensive, especially [when you are] awaiting the second, even bloodier, attack by Russian troops against our cities and villages. I also know that our Latin-rite Catholic brothers share these thoughts and concerns.”
More elaborate is a text of analytical content that appeared, this Wednesday, on the page of the Ukrainian Catholic University, signed by its vice-rector, Myroslav Marynovych, entitled “The cross of Abel and the cross of Cain are different crosses”.
The article begins by underlining that what is announced for the Way of the Cross expresses “an inability to see the circumstances of this war from the inside, and not just from the outside” and that it was the “attempt to immediately reconcile the two peoples that outraged many Ukrainians”.
Referring to the episode of Abel and Cain, from the book of Genesis, the author understands that the Pope, in this case, avoids naming Putin and avoids saying, as God said to Cain: “Here is the voice of your brother’s blood crying out from the earth. ”. “Without naming the criminal by name, the Pope gives the impression that he seeks to separate the criminal from the deserved punishment.”
This is because, according to Myroslav Marynovych, “the cross of Abel (the innocent victim) and the cross of Cain (the repentance of the aggressor) are different crosses”. And he adds: “They cannot be combined, because everyone who wants to follow Jesus must take up his own cross (cf. Mt 16:24). Ukrainians already carry their cross; the Russians have yet to carry theirs on their shoulders”.
Unlike “Vatican commentators” who are certain that “good and bad, aggressors and victims are accepted under the cross of Jesus”, “our crosses are different: for some, it is the cross of sacrifice, for others, it is the cross penitential of the sinner”, defends the head of the Ukrainian Catholic University.
And he uses statements he attributes to the apostolic nuncio in his country, Archbishop Visvaldas Kulbokas, who is said to have said: “Of course, we know that reconciliation occurs when the aggressor admits his guilt and apologizes.”
Source: with agencies