Rome’s famous Via Crucis religious service commemorated the final hours of Jesus’ life in an empty St. Peter’s Square, cleared out of tourists in compliance with coronavirus restrictions.
Crowds numbering tens of thousands usually attend the torchlit vigil, but this year only around 200 people looked on at a distance.
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Candles were placed across the square in front of St. Peter’s Basilica to form the shape of a cross. The tradition goes that the Pope moves around the 14 Stations of the Cross, saying meditations at each one.
This year, children wrote these prayers. Boy and girl scouts from Umbria and schoolchildren from Rome read out their worship, stopping at each Station as a group.
Each prayer related the experiences of children to those of Jesus. In a moving homage to the 13th Station, when Jesus was believed to be taken down from the cross, a child told a story of an ambulance coming to take his grandfather away, who later died of Covid-19.
It’s the second consecutive year the proceedings didn’t take place at the capital’s Colosseum, which by now have become an Easter tradition since Pope Paul VI brought back the service in 1964.
Easter Masses are due to be held across the Easter weekend, culminating in the key date on the Christian calendar, Easter Sunday, when the Pope delivers his message, “Urbi et Orbi” (to the city and the world).