Pope Francis used a Good Friday ceremony to reject "all crosses" of suffering in the world, including those of migrants who find doors closed due to "political calculations" and children who have suffered harm in their "innocence and purity", in a reference to pedophile clergy.
From a covered stand on the Palatine hill, Francis looked at the traditional, torch-lit, nocturnal procession in the Colosseum of Rome, which solemnly exposed the crucifixion of Jesus.
Together with thousands of pilgrims, tourists and Romans, he listened to reflections made by an older Italian nun who has been going to the streets of the city for 25 years to offer comfort and hope to migrant women who have been smuggled into prostitution.
Francis prayed to Jesus to "help us to see all the crosses of the world in your cross". The Pope quoted persons who were hungry for food and love and who were abandoned by their own children or parents.
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He then referred to two issues that strongly emphasized his papacy: how to promote the cause of often rejected migrants and what about a sea of scandals about the sexual abuse of children by Catholic clergy.
Francis said that migrants find doors closed due to fear and hearts hardened by political calculations.
He also condemned the "cross of the little ones, wounded in their innocence and purity." Francis did not immediately quote the church scandals.
The nun, Eugenia Bonetti, who works with many Nigerian women and other migrants who have fallen prey to human traffickers, spoke with Francis just before the procession started.
Bonetti told Rai State TV that "we are all responsible for the situation of these women, and say," Indifference is the biggest reason these girls are still on the street. "
In one of her meditations, read aloud while the believers listened in utter silence, Bonetti said that "it is easy to wear a crucifix on a chain around our neck or to use it on the walls of our beautiful cathedrals or houses to decorate ". It is less easy to recognize "the newly crucified:" the homeless, unemployed youth, "immigrants who have been relegated to the slums on the outskirts of our societies after enduring untold suffering," the nun said.
Populist leaders in Italy and several other European countries have taken a hard line against migrants and refused to accept those who were rescued at sea from the non-seaworthy boats of traders. The US government of Donald Trump is also determined to exclude illegal migrants.
Among those who took turns carrying a lightweight cross in the procession were a Nigerian woman and her daughter.
In his brief remarks, expressed in the form of a prayer, Francis also spoke about the "cross of the church", of which he said "constantly feels under attack from within and without."
The pope did not enter extensively. But loyal conservative and more liberal factions under the ecclesiastical hierarchy are bitterly at odds during his six-year-old papacy. And undermining the moral credibility of the church has been a tidal wave of criticism from believing and civilian authorities in various countries about systematically confusing pedophile priests from parish to parish instead of decades of removing them from access to children.
Earlier, during an evening prayer in St. Peter's Basilica, Francis kissed a crucifix in the central aisle and then pressed against his forehead against the wooden statue of Jesus. At another moment he threw himself down on the floor of the basilica in a sign of humility.