Pontiff Kisses Cross In Good Friday Ceremony With AM-Good Friday, Bjt
ROME (AP) _ A somber Pope John Paul II carried a wooden cross through Rome’s pagan ruins in a torchlit Good Friday procession commemorating the final agonies of Jesus.
The nighttime procession capped a day filled with religious ceremonies for the 65-year-old pope, including hearing 13 confessions and a three-hour celebration of the passion of Jesus at St. Peter’s Basilica.
John Paul, wearing a purple cape of mourning over his white cassock, carried the large wooden cross pressed to his head as he led the Way-of-the- Cros s procession from inside the Colosseum to the nearby Roman Forum.
The black cross, nearly head high, was made of poplar wood and weighed about two pounds.
Thousands of people holding candles stood silently in the cool, floodlit square outside the Colosseum as the pope, flanked by two young men carrying torches, stopped and prayed at the 14 stations of the cross. Million more watched the 50-minute ceremony on live television in Italy and 25 other countries.
Each station represents one of Christ’s agonies from his condemnation, his painful march carrying the cross to his crucifixion and burial.
At each stop, prayers were said in Italian for the suffering and persecuted and then repeated in six other languages by priests.
Oil lamps covered the Colosseum, where tradition says early Christians were martyred by being fed to lions by the ancient Romans.
A large cross burned inside the Forum on a wall of the Basilica of Maxentius, also known as the Basilica of Constantine - the first Christian emperor of Rome.
In a short homily at the end of the procession from a platform overlooking the crowd, John Paul took off his white skullcap and recounted the agony of Jesus on the cross.
″Every human death is a reflection of the death of Christ: it is entrusting of the spirit to him who created man for immortality,″ he said, his white hair and robes ruffled by a stiff wind.
″Death and love come together at the conclusion of the sacrifice of the cross,″ he added in Italian. ″The victory of the cross begins with this fact. Love overcomes through death.″
The crowd broke into loud applause at the end of the ceremony.
In an earlier ceremony, John Paul kissed a wooden cross in St. Peter’s Basilica. The pope, dressed in a simple white robe of mourning, removed his red cape and shoes and shed his miter, ring and other symbols of authority.
The pontiff then walked slowly to the wooden cross before the main altar and performed the most sorrowful liturgy in Roman Catholic worship.
The celebration of the passion of Jesus, which is performed instead of a Mass, lasted more than three hours. It included hymns and readings from the Bible before more than 20,000 spectators.
At the conclusion, John Paul gave Holy Communion to 150 people, with wafers blessed during Mass the day before.
All the bells in Rome’s 917 churches were silent and the church crosses were covered on Good Friday, the only day in the Roman Catholic year when Mass is not said.
John Paul also joined the world’s nearly 800 million Roman Catholics in one of the year’s two church fasting days for the year. Roman Catholic adults are allowed only one meal in penitential fasting on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.
Earlier in the day, John Paul donned an ordinary priest’s black mantel to hear the confessions of 13 worshipers at St. Peter’s Basilica.
It took more than 11/2 hours for the pope to hear the confessions inside one of the 27 hand-carved mahogany booths.
Among those who confessed in their native languages were two Filipino students, a Bolivian novice, an Indian student from Bombay, and a Belgian social worker.
The last to enter the booth was a 13-year-old American girl, Jennifer Beyersdorf from Michigan. Her hometown was not given.
Rome’s municipal authorities assigned more than 200 additional policemen to help handle nearly 500,000 pilgrims and tourists who have streamed into Rome for Easter. Hotels in and around the city were reported booked solid.