March 26, 2005 in Nation/World

Pope views procession via video

Nicole Winfield Associated Press
Associated Press photo

In this frame made from CTV Vatican television, Pope John Paul II holds a crucifix as he follows on video-link the Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) torchlight procession in front of Rome’s Colosseum from his chapel at the Vatican.
(Full-size photo)

ROME – He sat silently, alone in his chapel at the Vatican, his back to the camera, his face never shown.

The crowd in Rome’s Colosseum cheered and waved candles.

The ailing pope’s image on giant screens at the Way of the Cross procession was a picture of solitary suffering on Christianity’s most solemn day, which commemorates Christ’s suffering on the cross.

For the first time in his 26-year papacy, John Paul was physically absent from the Good Friday commemoration, the latest in a series of Holy Week events his own suffering forced him to skip.

Yet the fact that he watched the entire procession on television until its conclusion shortly before 11 p.m. heartened some of the faithful. Michael Caron, visiting Rome with his family from Chicago, said he “felt very grateful the pope had made this sacrifice for us.”

In a message read for him at the start, John Paul said he was spiritually among those at the Colosseum recalling Christ’s last hours.

“I also offer my suffering, so that God’s design is completed and his word walks among the people,” the message said. “I am near all those who in these moments are tested by suffering. I pray for each of them.”

The pope used to carry a lightweight wooden cross during the Colosseum procession, which symbolically traces Christ’s path to the Crucifixion. He stopped in 2001 because of his difficulty in walking, but he would observe the procession from a chair and offer prayers to the crowds.

Vatican TV installed giant television screens at the Colosseum, and on the plateau overlooking the Colosseum where the pope used to sit there was a torchlit cross.

John Paul was shown watching the procession on a television screen under the chapel altar.

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