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The text of the Pope's Good Friday mass was canceled after the Ukrainian protest

The text of the Pope’s Good Friday mass was canceled after the Ukrainian protest

Ukrainian and Russian women hold a cross as they attend the Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) procession during the Good Friday celebrations, at the Colosseum, in Rome, Italy, April 15, 2022. REUTERS/Guglielmo Manjiabani TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

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ROME (Reuters) – A Ukrainian and Russian woman took part in Pope Francis’ Good Friday prayer “The Way of the Cross,” but the meditation she wrote was scrapped after Ukrainians protested that the war had made it unsuitable.

The Via Crucis traditional procession at Rome’s Colosseum was embroiled in controversy earlier this week when the program showed the two friends, a nurse and a student nurse at a Rome hospital, would take part.

The candlelight service consists of the 14 Stations of the Cross, stages between Jesus’ condemnation of death and his burial. It is often designated so that those who carry the cross from one station to another reflect world events.

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Major Archbishop Svyatoslav Shevchuk, head of the Catholic Church with the Byzantine Rite in Ukraine, described their inclusion as inappropriate and ambiguous because it “did not take into account the context of Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine”.

The original text of the meditation written by the two women talks about death, loss of values, anger, resignation, and reconciliation despite the bombings.

Shevchuk said the text, which was approved by the Vatican, was “incoherent but an offensive, especially in the context of the expected second, and bloodiest, attack by Russian forces on our cities and villages.”

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Ukraine’s ambassador to the Vatican, Andrey Yurash, also expressed his dissatisfaction.

On Friday night, the original 200-word text was replaced by two sentences: “In the face of death, silence is the most eloquent word. Let us all pause in silent prayer and pray each one in their hearts for peace in the world.”

Then a crowd of several thousand people fell silent for about as long as it would have taken to read the original, longer meditation.

Francis sat and watched the procession sitting on a white chair.

In his last prayer, he asked God to allow “enemies to shake hands so that they may taste mutual forgiveness, and to take away the hand of a brother which he has raised against a brother, so that concord may spring from where there is now hatred.”

Since the start of the war, Francis has explicitly mentioned Russia only in prayer, such as a special global event for peace on March 25. But he made clear his opposition to Russia’s actions, using words of conquest, aggression and atrocities.

Moscow describes these measures in Ukraine as a “special military operation” aimed not at the occupation of territory but at the disarmament and “disarmament” of the country. Francis tacitly rejected this definition.

The war in Ukraine is expected to continue to cast a shadow over the Pope’s remaining activities in Holy Week.

On Saturday evening, Francis will lead Easter Mass in the cathedral.

On Easter Sunday, the most important day in the Christian liturgical calendar, he will say mass in St Peter’s Square and then deliver his message and blessing twice a year “Urbi et Orbi” (to the city and the world).

(Reporting by Philip Pullella) Editing by Nick Szyminski

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