The pope marked Holy Thursday after two years of pandemic, with the war in Ukraine as a backdrop

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The Pope celebrated Maundy Thursday with the rite of Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica and washed the feet of twelve prisoners at dusk in Civitavecchia prison, 80 kilometers from Rome.

But the attention of the faithful is focused on the Roman Colosseum, where after two years of suspension due to the pandemic, the Via Crucis will be held again on Friday evening.

As is the tradition of this ceremony which attracts thousands of faithful and is broadcast around the world on television, in the presence of the Pope, the news is also mentioned in the comments and by the participants.

The faces of Russia and Ukraine

The Argentine Pope has approved that at the 13th station of Calvary two young friends, nurses who work together, carry the cross. Are Ukrainian Irina and Russian Albina.


Albina (from Russia) and Irina (from Ukraine) will star in the Stations of the Cross before Pope Francis on Friday. Photo: EFE

The news sparked a hurricane of adverse reactions on the part of the Ukrainians, who support the impossibility of putting the attacked and the aggressor on the same level.

It is not enough for Albina to say and repeat with tears in her eyes: “I am Russian but I love Ukraine and I am against war”. Irina, whose family is in Ukraine, defends her friend’s sincerity.

Both are nurses at the Rome Biomedical Campus of Opus Dei, the powerful Catholic personal prelature.

One of the Pope’s closest advisers, the Jesuit Father Antonio Spadaro, director of the magazine “Civiltá Católica” of the order of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, reacted to the most virulent criticism by recalling that the pontiff “is a pastor , not a politician, who as such acts according to the evangelical spirit, which is that of reconciliation”.

The Pope celebrated Holy Thursday at the Vatican.  Photo: EFE

The Pope celebrated Holy Thursday at the Vatican. Photo: EFE

Criticism of the Ukrainian Church

The controversy was sparked by opposition from Major Archbishop Syatoslav Shevecuk, head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.

In a message from Kyiv, he reiterated this Thursday that his country “is living the 48th day of national opposition to Russian aggression, another day of death, destruction, pain and tears”.

He described as “an ambiguous and inopportune idea” to put a Ukrainian and a Russian to carry the cross together at the station of Calvary which recalls the deposition of Jesus from the cross before his mother, the Virgin Mary.

The archbishop openly contests the pope’s decision and claims that the texts and gestures of the Stations of the Cross are “incomprehensible and even offensive, especially since we await the second and bloodiest attack by Russian troops against new cities and village”.

For the Catholic archbishop of the Greek rite, it is clear that “gestures of reconciliation between our peoples will only be possible when the war is over and when those guilty of crimes against humanity are condemned according to justice”.

In turn, the apostolic nuncio in kyiv, that is to say the papal ambassador to the Ukrainian government, Bishop Visvaldas Kulboas, spoke but instead of trying to mitigate the controversy, he told the newspapers locals that “he would never have organized the prayer in this way, because reconciliation must come after the aggression has stopped”.

The pontifical ambassador who criticizes the pontiff, a unique case in pontifical diplomacy, affirmed that there will be forgiveness only “when the Ukrainians can not only save their lives but also their freedom”.

“Naturally, we know that reconciliation happens when the abuser admits guilt and makes excuses,” he said.

Ukraine’s Ambassador to the Vatican, Andrij Yurash, added: “I share the general concern in Ukraine and in many other communities, at the idea of ​​putting two women, one Ukrainian and the other Russian, together to carry the cross on the Stations of the Cross.”

“We try to explain the difficulties of its execution and the possible consequences” of an act “which, according to critics, puts the victim and the aggressor on the same level, without taking into account the context of the war”, has he added. noticed.

The Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano He explained that “in our time, the way of the Cross of Jesus is intimately linked to the painful paths of Ukraine, where the terrible images of lifeless bodies and the drama of people on the run bear witness to the horrors of war”. .

The Pope returned for his part to thunder against the war. “The time we live in leaves us perplexed because it is crossed by the forces of evil. The suffering of so many weak and helpless people; the many massacred civilians and innocent young victims; the desperate flight of women and children,” he warned.

“All this shakes our consciences and compels us not to be silent, not to remain indifferent to the violence of Cain and the cry of Abel, but to raise our voices with force, in the name of God, for the end of these abominable actions”, concluded Jorge Bergoglio.

Vatican Correspondent

CB​

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