Good Friday at the Colosseum

Arriving in Rome on late Friday afternoon, I decided to jump right into the celebrations for Easter week starting with Good Friday “Way of the Cross” at the Colosseum.  I always try to experience the culture including religious ceremonies of cultures that I visit. Raised as a Catholic, this one was special for me.

Good Friday at the Colosseum
Good Friday at the Colosseum


Colosseum.MapNormally, I try to avoid the big crowds and tourists, but this is one week where I will be going straight into the center of the storm to experience the events this week in Rome.

I walked down to the Colosseum from my apartment around 6:30pm, not really knowing exactly what to expect from lack of information scouring the web. I started to encounter lots of police and medical staff on stand-by lining the roads. On one side of the Colosseum, there was a blockaded courtyard, bordered by the Forum and the Arco di Constantino (See map below with red arrow) and they were letting in about 30 people at a time to avoid a rush. Entering this area around 7:00pm, there were already a few hundred in this area, sitting in groups on the ground and singing songs. On the Colosseum behind us was a large screen to show the procession.

Prayer Book for the Stations of the Cross

At around 8:30pm, there was some commotion in the crowd as they started to hand out items. First were prayer books, next candle holders and then finally candles. Surprisingly given that there were over 10,000 people in the crowds (About 1,000 in the square), everything was quite calm and orderly. I was fairly close up to the front, so not sure how many received these items farther back.

Finally at 9pm, another stir in the crowd. The Pope arrived to chants of “Papa Francesco”. And then the 90 minute procession commenced with the reading of the 14 stations of the cross. It was all in Italian, but the prayer book had illustrated pictures to remind me of my Catholic school days and the words of each station.

Good Friday mass with Pope Francis
Good Friday mass with Pope Francis

Around the 11th station, the cross was in the square area (I am not sure where the procession was before this), several members came through the middle of the crowd in a marked off area with the cross and torches. After they climbed Forum stairs to where the Pope had been the entire procession, the Pope spoke a few words.

Pope Francis told the crowd in brief remarks that the cross represented the “weight of all our sins.” He decried the “monstrosity of man when he lets himself be guided by evil.” And ended on a note of optimism.

“Evil won’t have the last word, but love, mercy and pardon will.”

Attending a Good Friday mass and walking through the stations of cross always brings me back to the true intent of this day which is the remember the sacrifice that Jesus made for all of us. If you are Catholic or not, being a part of this mass is an experience to remember. You will be standing in a location that used to celebrate death with thousands of people who are united if only for a moment  in the BELIEF of goodness and peace and that is something we all can celebrate.

More photos of the Good Friday Way of the Cross Ceremony available on my Facebook page