On the morning of Friday 24th March, the Via Crucis of the Catholic schools of the city of Jerusalem took place, involving 8 schools and more than 500 pupils. The Via Crucis of the young people and children, organized by the Custody of the Holy Land, has taken on a particular meaning this year, because it comes in a context of violence and religious fanaticism which has characterized the life of the Christian communities in recent months.
The youngsters and teachers, gathered in the large entrance of the Sanctuary of the Flagellation, were given a red scarf, with on it pictures of the statue of Jesus, vandalized in this very place, in the Chapel of the Condemnation, on 2nd February last.
“We are here together for this celebration and let’s wear this red scarf, which is the colour of martyrdom, the colour of love, the colour of those who know how to give life:” with these words, the Custos of the Holy Land, fr. Francesco Patton, welcomed all the students assembled at the start of the Via Crucis. “On this image there is Jesus who suffers for us, with the words which were his prayer from the cross: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing (Luke 23,33-34)”. These words remind us that this is the Christian way of answering violence. Jesus taught us to pray for those who make us suffer and invoke forgiveness. Through his Passion and his death, Jesus has shown us that love and forgiveness are stronger than violence. Walking together along the Via Dolorosa, let us ask the Lord for the same ability to follow him and to forgive, and to never to give in to the temptation of violence.”
The procession then set off, calm and with a great participation, to the stations of the Passion of Jesus: at the 7th station of Via Dolorosa, the Patriarch of the Latins, His Beatitude Pierbattista Pizzaballa, welcomed the cross and all the participants and joined the procession towards the Church of St Saviour, where the last stations of the Via Crucis were concluded.”
“We call ourselves the “people of the Cross” and we have to be proud of this,” emphasized the Patriarch, addressing, at the end of the event, the young people who packed the Church – because it is the symbol of the love of Jesus: all that we have is the love of Jesus, which is stronger than anything else whatsoever!” H.B. Pierbattista Pizzaballa then wanted to dedicate a particular thought to the community of Jerusalem: “You are not only Christians, but Christians in Jerusalem. Here, there are the holy places, the churches and the sanctuaries, but the “living communities are needed! Without you, Christianity disappears: this is an important responsibility.”
Ibrahim Faltas, Vicar of the Custody of the Holy Land and Director of the Terra Sancta Schools, as well as promotor of this extraordinary event, wanted to emphasise that “even though we are living through a very difficult time, we must not be afraid: we have gone down the Via Crucis to get ready for Holy Week and Easter, to remind us that if we die with Christ we will rise with Christ. The message to our students is precisely this: we have to forgive and never answer violence with violence, but with forgiveness, with love and with peace.”