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The Way of the Cross at Copacabana

Rio, July 27, 2013: Pope Francis, returned to Copacabana beach on Friday evening to preside at at the Via Crucis or "Way of the Cross".The commemoration forms a vital part of the World Youth Day events and tens of thousands of people turned out to watch and greet Pope Francis. Our Correspondent in Rio Seàn Patrick Lovett followed the event and sends this report.

For me it was the music that made it emotional – and not simply spectacular (which, of course, it was). The Via Crucis has become both a central and much anticipated event in the WYD celebrations and an artistic tour de force in its own right.

My personal favourite is the one I saw in Sydney in 2008. It was an itinerant Way of the Cross that involved the entire city , with the 14 Stations animating the bay and harbour area (on land and water) and culminating on the steps of the iconic Sydney Opera House. My least favourite is the one I remember seeing in Denver in 1993. The role of Jesus was played by a girl…

Here in Rio, Jesus was interpreted by different actors and in a contemporary style. The overall effect was meant to provoke an artistic dialogue between traditional popular religious symbolism and the needs, concerns and expectations of youth. Each of the Stations that punctuated the long stretch of Copacabana beach, drew attention to different existential questions posed by young people today: from love and loneliness to motherhood and mission, from suffering and student-life to disability and death. The 10th Station (“Jesus is stripped of his garments”) was dedicated to social networks and the need to focus on the centrality of the human person without losing oneself in the labyrinth of the web.

The World Youth Day Cross was the true protagonist of the evening – carried by 30 young people, representing the different stops the Cross has made on its way from Rome to Rio, and accompanied by 200 others waving the flags of the countries present here at WYD in Brazil. However visually impressive, the overall presentation never lost its religious and liturgical solemnity: incense-bearing altar-servers and a white-garbed guard of honour provided a constant reminder that what was really happening had more to do with spiritual experience than with external theatricality.

And what more appropriate place to be living such an experience than right here in Rio, Brazil – the country that was originally named “The Land of the Holy Cross”?


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