Children are the focus of the reduced Good Friday service of the Pope by Reuters

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© Reuters. Pope Francis leads the Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) procession during the Good Friday celebrations at the Vatican

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By Philip Pullella

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Francis led a pared-down “Stations of the Cross” service held in empty St. Peter’s Square on Friday due to coronavirus restrictions, listening to children share their fears and dreams.

It was the second year in a row that the “Via Crucis” procession to commemorate the last hours of Jesus’ life was not held in the ancient Colosseum of Rome, since the present Easter tradition in 1964 by Pope Paul VI. Was reintroduced.

Candles in the form of a huge cross stood on an empty St. Peter’s Square, in which only about 200 people took part and who sat on either side of the Pope directly in front of St. Peter’s Basilica.

Each year different groups write the meditations. This time they were written by Scouts and Boy Scouts from the Umbria region and by students from a school in Rome, most of them not yet teenagers.

Children were reading meditations as a small group stopped around the square 14 times to mark each of the “Stations of the Cross”, starting with the first when Jesus was sentenced to death by Pontius Pilate until he was last buried in a tomb.

The opening comments, which were written in the form of a children’s dialogue with Jesus, were reminiscent of children who get by without food or education or are forced to be soldiers.

Also mentioned was the embarrassment children feel when they wet the bed, the sadness when parents struggle, and the fear of telling a dark secret to an adult for fear of not being believed, which is an indication of sexuality Seemed to be abuse.

The meditations at each station attempted to relate the children’s experiences to those of Jesus. At Station 13, when Jesus was taken from the cross, a child remembered his grandfather being taken away in an ambulance and later dying of the coronavirus.

On the previous Friday, Francis threw himself on the floor of an empty St. Peter’s Basilica to pray “Passion of the Lord” at a service.

Francis will keep an Easter vigil on Saturday and deliver his message “Urbi et Orbi” (to the city and the world) on Easter Sunday, the most important day in the Christian liturgical calendar.

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