Every year, the pope asks a person or group of people to write the meditations that are read aloud during the nighttime torch-lit Good Friday ceremony, which he presides over.
For 2014, Pope Francis picked Italian Archbishop Giancarlo Maria Bregantini of Campobasso-Boiano—a former factory worker, longtime prison chaplain, champion of the unemployed and fiercely outspoken critic of the Italian mafia. In essence, the pope chose the very kind of apostolic missionary he has been calling all Christians to be.
The following excerpts from the full text are but a sample.
Jesus is condemned to death – Fingers pointed in accusation
…. And what about us? Will we have a clear, upright and responsible conscience, one which never forsakes the innocent but courageously takes the side of the weak, resisting injustice and defending truth whenever it is violated?
Jesus takes up his cross – The heavy wood of the cross
…This is the cross which weighs upon the world of labour, the injustice shouldered by workers. Jesus shoulders it himself and teaches us to reject injustice and to learn, with his help, to build bridges of solidarity and of hope, lest we be like sheep who have lost our way amid this crisis.
Jesus falls for the first time – Weakness opening to acceptance
… He teaches us to accept our weaknesses, not to be disheartened by our failures, and frankly to acknowledge our limits: I can will what is right – says Saint Paul – but I cannot do it (Rom 7:18).
Jesus meets his Mother – Tears of solidarity
…Tears of solidarity with the suffering of their children! Mothers keeping watch by night, their lamps lit, anxious and worried for their young who lack prospects or who fall into the abyss of drugs or alcohol, especially on Saturday nights!
Jesus is helped by Simon of Cyrene to carry his cross – A friendly, supportive hand
Jesus himself tells us: “Just as you did it to one of the least of these, my brothers, you did it to me” (Mt 25:40).
Veronica wipes the face of Jesus – A woman’s tender love
… Jesus then halts before a woman who resolutely approaches him. It is Veronica, a true image of a woman’s tender love….In Jesus, she sees all our neighbours who need to be consoled with a tender touch, and comes to hear the cries of pain of all those who, in our own day, receive neither practical assistance nor the warmth of compassion. Who die of loneliness…
Jesus falls for the second time – The anguish of imprisonment and torture
….Only with help can those who fall rise again, aided by skilled personnel, sustained by the fraternal support of volunteers, and put on their feet by a society which takes responsibility for the many injustices which occur within the walls of our prisons.
Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem – Solidarity and compassion
… Jesus is moved by their bitter lament, yet he tells them not to be disheartened by his sufferings; he tells them to be women not of grief but of faith! He asks for their solidarity in suffering, not merely a barren and plaintive sympathy.
NINTH STATION – Jesus falls for the third time – Leaving behind unhealthy nostalgia
…May our contemplation of Jesus, who falls yet rises once more, help us to overcome the kinds of narrowness which fear of the future impresses on our hearts, especially at this time of crisis. Let us leave behind our unhealthy nostalgia for the past, our complacency and our refusal to change, and the attitude that says: “But we’ve always done it this way!”. Jesus who stumbles and falls, but then rises, points us to a sure hope which, nourished by intense prayer, is born precisely at the moment of trial, not after or apart from it!
Jesus is stripped of his garments – Unity and dignity
… In Jesus, innocent, stripped and tortured, we see the outraged dignity of all the innocent, especially the little ones. God did not prevent his naked body from being exposed on the cross. He did this in order to redeem every abuse wrongly concealed, and to show that he, God, is irrevocably and unreservedly on the side of victims.
Jesus is crucified – – At the bedside of the sick
… Today many of our brothers and sisters, like Jesus, are nailed to a bed of pain, at hospital, in homes for the elderly, in our families. It is a time of hardship, with bitter days of solitude and even despair: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mt 27:46).
May we never use our hands to inflict harm, but only to draw near, to comfort and to accompany the sick, raising them from their bed of pain.
Jesus dies on the cross – The seven last words
Jesus’ seven last words on the cross are the perfection of hope. Slowly, with steps that are also our own, Jesus traverses all the darkness of night and abandons himself trustingly into the arms of his Father. It is the cry of the dying, the groan of the despairing, the entreaty of the lost. It is Jesus!
Jesus is taken down from the cross – Love is stronger than death
Bent over Jesus’ body, Mary is bound to him in a total embrace. This icon is known simply as Pietà – pity. It is heartrending, but it shows that death does not break the bond of love. For love is stronger than death! Pure love is the love that lasts. …. To love to the very end is the supreme teaching which Jesus and Mary have left us. It is the daily fraternal mission of consolation which is entrusted to us in this faithful embrace of the dead Jesus and his sorrowful Mother.
Jesus is laid in the tomb – The new garden
… That garden, with the tomb in which Jesus was buried, makes us think of another garden: the garden of Eden. A garden which through disobedience lost its beauty and became a wilderness, a place of death where once there was life.
…The silence which fills that garden enables us to hear the whisper of a gentle breeze: “I am the Living One and I am with you” (cf. Ex 3:14). The curtain of the temple is torn in two. At last we see our Lord’s face. And we know fully his name: mercy and faithfulness. We will never be confounded, even in the face of death, for the Son of God was free among the dead (cf. Ps 88:6 Vg.).