My way of the Cross began six years ago, when I left my city. After a thirteen day journey, we arrived at the desert and passed through it for eight days, coming across burnt out cars, empty water cans and dead bodies, until we reached Libya. Those who still had to pay the smugglers for the crossing were locked up and tortured until they paid. Some lost their lives, others their minds. They promised to put me on a ship for Europe, but the trips were canceled and we did not get our money back. There was war there and we reached the point where we stopped paying attention to violence and stray bullets. I found work as a plasterer in order to pay for the crossing. Eventually I boarded a raft with more than a hundred people. We sailed for hours before an Italian ship saved us. I was full of joy and we knelt down to thank God. Then we discovered that the ship was returning to Libya. There, we were confined in a detention centre, the worst place in the world. Ten months later, I was again on a boat. The first night there were high waves, four people fell into the sea and we managed to save two of them. I fell asleep hoping to die. When I woke up, I saw people smiling next to me. Some Tunisian fishermen called for help, the ship docked and NGOs gave us food, clothing and shelter. I worked to pay for another crossing. This was the sixth time; after three days at sea, I reached Malta. I stayed in a centre for six months and there I lost my mind. Every night I asked God why: why should people like ourselves consider us enemies? Many people who are fleeing from war are carrying crosses like mine.
Let us pray together, saying: Deliver us, Lord Jesus!
From the easy condemnation of our neighbour: Deliver us, Lord Jesus!
From hasty judgments: Deliver us, Lord Jesus!
From criticism and useless words: Deliver us, Lord Jesus!
From destructive gossip: Deliver us, Lord Jesus!
Third Station: Jesus falls for the first time
(Voices of peace from young people from Central America)
Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities (Is 53:4-5).
We young people want peace. Yet we frequently fall and the fall has many names: we are knocked down by laziness, fear, discouragement, and also the empty promises of an easy but dishonest life made up of greed and corruption. This increases the cycle of drug trafficking, violence, addictions and the exploitation of people, while too many families continue to mourn the loss of their children, and the lack of accountability on the part of those who deceive, kidnap and kill has no end. How can we achieve peace? Jesus, you fell under the cross, but then you got up, took up the cross again and with it gave us peace. You push us to take charge of our lives, you push us to the courage of commitment, which in our language is called compromiso. This means saying no to many compromisos, to false compromises that kill peace. We are full of these compromises: we do not want violence, but we attack those who do not think like us on social media; we want a united society, but we do not make the effort to understand those who are next to us; worse, we neglect those who need us. Lord, place in our hearts the desire to raise up someone who has fallen to the ground. As you do with us.
Let us pray together, saying: Raise us up, Lord Jesus!
From our laziness: Raise us up, Lord Jesus!
From our falls: Raise us up, Lord Jesus!
From our sadness: Raise us up, Lord Jesus!
From thinking that helping others is not up to us: Raise us up, Lord Jesus!
Fourth Station: Jesus meets his Mother
(Voices of peace from a South American mother)
Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is spoken against – and a sword will pierce through your own soul also – that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed” (Lk 2:34-35).
In 2012, the explosion of a bomb planted by the guerrillas severely damaged my leg. The shrapnel caused dozens of wounds to my body. Of that moment, I remember people’s screams and blood everywhere. Yet what terrified me the most was seeing my seven-month old baby, covered in blood, with many pieces of glass stuck in her face. What it must have been like for Mary to see Jesus’ face bruised and bloodied! At first, I, a victim of that senseless violence, felt anger and resentment, but then I discovered that if I spread hatred, I created even more violence. I realized that within and around me there were wounds deeper than those of the body. I understood that many victims needed to discover, like me and through me, that it was not over for them either and that we cannot live with resentment. So I began to help them: I studied in order to teach them how to prevent accidents due to the millions of mines scattered in our land. I thank Jesus and his Mother for having discovered that drying other people’s tears is not a waste of time, but the best medicine for healing ourselves.
Let us pray together, saying: Grant that we may recognize you, Lord Jesus!
In the disfigured faces of those who suffer: Grant that we may recognize you, Lord Jesus!
In those who are small and poor: Grant that we may recognize you, Lord Jesus!
In those who cry out for an act of love: Grant that we may recognize you, Lord Jesus!
In those persecuted for the sake of justice: Grant that we may recognize you, Lord Jesus!
Fifth Station: Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry his cross
(Voices of peace from three migrants from Africa, South Asia and the Middle East)
And as they led him away, they seized one Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, and laid on him the cross, to carry it behind Jesus (Lk 23:26).
 I am someone wounded by hatred. Once you experience hatred, you do not forget it, it changes you. Hatred takes on terrible forms. It leads a human being to use a pistol not only to shoot others, but also to break their bones while other people look on. There is a void of love inside me that makes me feel like a useless weight. Who will be a Cyrenian for me?  I live my life on the road: I escaped from bombs, knives, hunger and pain. I have been pushed onto a truck, hidden in trunks, thrown onto unsafe boats. Yet my journey continued in order to reach a place of safety, one that offers freedom and opportunity, where I can give and receive love, practice my faith and where hope is real. Who will be a Cyrenian for me?  Frequently, I am asked: Who are you? Why are you here? What is your status? Do you expect to stay? Where will you go? These are not questions that are intended to hurt, but they do hurt. They reduce my hopes to a check on the boxes of a form. I must choose foreigner, victim, asylum seeker, refugee, migrant or other. Yet what I want to write is person, brother, friend, believer, neighbour. Who will be a Cyrenian for me?
Let us pray together, saying: Forgive us, Lord Jesus!
When we disdained you in the unfortunate: Forgive us, Lord Jesus!
When we ignored you in those who need help: Forgive us, Lord Jesus!
When we abandoned you in the defenceless: Forgive us, Lord Jesus!
When we did not serve you in those who suffer: Forgive us, Lord Jesus!
Sixth Station: Veronica wipes the face of Jesus
(Voices of peace from a religious priest from the Balkan Peninsula)
Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me (Mt 25:34-36).
I was a forty year old pastor when the war came: some armed guards entered the parish house and took me to a camp where I spent four months. They were terrible: lacking the minimum conditions of hygiene, we suffered from hunger and thirst without being able to wash or shave. We were physically mistreated, beaten and tortured with various objects. They brought me outside, even five times a day, above all at night, calling me “Pastor” and striking me. Among other things, they broke three ribs and threatened to pull out my fingernails, put salt in my wounds, and skin me alive. Once it was so hard to resist that I begged the guard to kill me, convinced as I was that they would do it anyway. The guard answered me: “You will not die so easily; for you we will get one hundred fifty of our men in return”. Those words reawakened in me the hope of surviving. Yet I would not have been able to bear all that evil by myself, without God: prayer, repeated in the heart, worked wonders. And Providence came, in the form of aid and food, through a Muslim woman, Fatima, who managed to reach me, making her way through the hatred. She was for me what Veronica was for Jesus. Now, until the end of my days, I bear witness to the horrors of war and cry out: Never again war!
Let us pray together, saying: Grant us your gaze, Lord Jesus!
That we may love those who are unloved: Grant us your gaze, Lord Jesus!
That we may help those who have lost their way: Grant us your gaze, Lord Jesus!
That we may take care of those who suffer violence: Grant us your gaze, Lord Jesus!
That we may welcome those who repent of evil: Grant us your gaze, Lord Jesus!
Seventh Station: Jesus falls for the second time
(Voices of peace from two teenagers from North Africa)
“Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?” And the king will answer them, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me” (Mt 25:37-40).
 I am Joseph, and I am sixteen. I arrived at the camp for internally displaced persons with my parents in 2015 and have been living there for more than eight years. If there had been peace, I would have stayed in my home where I was born and enjoyed my childhood. Here life is not good. I am afraid of the future, for myself and for the other young people. Why are we suffering in the camp for internally displaced persons? Because of the ongoing conflicts in my country, which has been plagued by war for as long as it has existed. Without peace, we will not be able to get up again. Peace is always promised, but we continue to fall under the weight of war, our cross. I thank God who raises us up like a father, and so many generous men and women whom I perhaps will never know and who, by helping us, allow us to survive.  I am Johnson and since 2014 I have been living in another camp for internally displaced persons in Block B, Section Two. I am fourteen, and I am in the third grade. Here life is not good; many children do not go to school because there are not enough teachers and schools for everyone. The place is too small and crowded, there is not even room to play football. We want peace so that we can go back home. Peace is good, war is bad. I would like to say this to the world’s leaders. And I ask all my friends to pray for peace.
Let us pray together, saying: Make us strong, Lord Jesus!
In time of trial: Make us strong, Lord Jesus!
In the effort to build bridges of fraternity: Make us strong, Lord Jesus!
In carrying our cross: Make us strong, Lord Jesus!
In bearing witness to the Gospel: Make us strong, Lord Jesus!
Eighth Station: Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem
(Voices of peace from Southeast Asia)
And there followed him a great multitude of the people, and of women who bewailed and lamented him (Lk 23:27).
Jesus, you carried your cross. And I think that my country is also carrying its cross. We are a people that loves peace, yet we are crushed by the cross of conflict: by violence, internal displacements, attacks on places of worship… It is a heavy burden that we are dragging, Jesus: a way of the cross that seems endless. Our mothers shed tears and grieve over the hunger of their children. And like them, I too do not have many words to pray with, but many tears to offer. Lord, the procession that led you to Calvary was dreadful, but some grieving women made their way through the crowd, which was degraded by evil. It was they who gave you strength, mothers who saw in you not a condemned man, but a son. From us, too, a woman came out of the crowd and became a mother in spirit for many. She knelt down in defence of her people before the power of the weapons that were lined up and, willing to give her life, meekly pleaded for peace and reconciliation. Jesus, now as then, in the grisly turmoil of hate the dance of peace arises. And we Christians want to be instruments of peace. Convert us to you, Jesus, and give us strength, for you alone are our strength.
Let us pray together, saying: Convert us, Lord Jesus!
From trafficking in weapons without qualms of conscience: Convert us, Lord Jesus!
From allocating money for armaments instead of for food: Convert us, Lord Jesus!
From the slavery of money that gives rise to war and injustice: Convert us, Lord Jesus!
That spears may be turned into pruning hooks: Convert us, Lord Jesus!
Ninth Station: Jesus falls for the third time
(Voices of peace from a consecrated woman from Central Africa)
Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life (Jn 12:24-25).
On 5 December 2013, at five o’clock in the morning, I was awakened by the sound of weapons. The rebels were invading the capital. Everyone ran and tried to hide, yet all it took to die was to cross the path of a stray bullet. This was the beginning of indescribable sufferings: killings, loss of family members, friends and colleagues. My sister disappeared and never came back, which traumatized my father. He left us a few years later following a short illness. I continued to cry. In that valley of tears and of “why”… I thought of Jesus. He also fell under the weight of violence, even to the point of saying on the cross, “My God, why have you abandoned me?”. I joined my “why” to his and an answer came to me: love as Jesus loves you. This was the light amid the darkness. I understood that I had to draw upon the strength to love. Since then, every time there is a little bit of peace, I go to Mass. To get to the parish I have to take several roads and pass through at least three rebel barricades. Yet, Mass after Mass, a certitude grew within me: despite having lost practically everything, including the house where I grew up, everything passes away except God. This lifted me up and with some friends we started to gather some children, who were playing soldiers, to try to hand on to them, who are the future, the Gospel values of mutual help, forgiveness and honesty, so that the dream of peace can come true.
Let us pray together, saying: Heal us, Lord Jesus!
From the fear of being unloved: Heal us, Lord Jesus!
From the fear of being misunderstood: Heal us, Lord Jesus!
From the fear of being forgotten: Heal us, Lord Jesus!
From the fear of failure: Heal us, Lord Jesus!
Tenth Station: Jesus is stripped of his clothes
(Voices of peace from young people from Ukraine and Russia)
[The soldiers] crucified him, and divided his garments among them, casting lots for them, to decide what each should take. This was to fulfil the Scripture, “They parted my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots” (Mk 15:24; Jn 19:24).
 Last year, my mother and father brought me and my youngest brother to Italy, where our grandmother has worked for more than twenty years. We left Mariupol at night. At the border, the soldiers stopped my father and told him that he had to stay in Ukraine to fight. We continued on by bus for two more days. When we arrived in Italy, I was sad. I felt stripped of everything: completely bare. I did not know the language and had no friends. My grandmother tried hard to make me feel fortunate but all I did was say I wanted to go home. In the end my family decided to go back to Ukraine. Here the situation continues to be hard: there is war on all sides, the city is destroyed. Yet in my heart there remained that certitude which my grandmother used to tell me about when I cried: “Everything will pass, you’ll see. And with the help of the good Lord, peace will return”.  I, on the other hand, am from Russia… as I say it, I almost feel a sense of guilt, yet at the same time I do not understand why and I feel doubly bad. I feel stripped of happiness and of dreams for the future. I have seen my grandmother and mother cry for two years. A letter informed us that my oldest brother was dead; I still remember him on his eighteenth birthday, smiling and bright like the sun, and all this just a few weeks before leaving for a long journey. Everyone told us we should be proud, but at home there was only much suffering and sadness. The same thing happened also to my father and grandfather: they too left and we know nothing more. Some of my classmates, with great fear, whispered in my ear that there was war. When I returned home, I wrote a prayer: Jesus, please, let there be peace in the whole world and let us all be brothers and sisters.
Let us pray together, saying: Purify us, Lord Jesus!
From resentment and bitterness: Purify us, Lord Jesus!
From violent words and reactions: Purify us, Lord Jesus!
From attitudes that create division: Purify us, Lord Jesus!
From seeking to look good by humiliating others: Purify us, Lord Jesus!
Eleventh Station: Jesus is nailed to the cross
(Voices of peace from a young person from the Near East)
And with him they crucified two robbers, one on his right and one on his left. And those who passed by derided him, shaking their heads, and saying, “Aha! You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself and come down from the cross!” (Mk 15:27-30).
In 2012, a group of armed extremists invaded our neighbourhood and started killing those who were on balconies and inside apartment buildings with bursts of machine gun fire. I was nine years old. I remember the anguish of my mother and father; in the evening we found ourselves embracing and praying, aware of the harsh new reality ahead of us. Every day the war became more atrocious. For long periods there was no light and water, and wells were dug everywhere. Food was a daily problem. In 2014, while we were on the balcony, a bomb exploded in front of the house, hurling us inside and covering us with glass and splinters. A few months later another bomb hit my parents’ room. They miraculously survived and reluctantly decided to leave the country. Another “calvary” began because, after two attempts to obtain a visa, we had no choice but to board a ship. We risked our lives, we stayed on a rock waiting for dawn and a coast guard vessel. Once we were saved, the locals welcomed us with open arms, understanding our hardships. The war was the cross of our lives. War kills hope. In our country, many families, children and the elderly are without hope, even more so after terrible natural disasters. In the name of Jesus, who opened his arms on the cross, stretch out a hand to my people!
Let us pray together, saying: Heal us, Lord Jesus!
From the inability to dialogue: Heal us, Lord Jesus!
From distrust and suspicion: Heal us, Lord Jesus!
From impatience and haste: Heal us, Lord Jesus!
From being closed in on ourselves and from isolation: Heal us, Lord Jesus!
Twelfth Station: Jesus dies forgiving those who crucified him
(Voices of peace from a mother from West Asia)
And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do”. It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, crying out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last (Lk 23:34.44-46).
On 6 August 2014, the city was awakened by bombs. Terrorists were at the gates. Three weeks earlier, they had invaded the nearby cities and villages, treating them cruelly. So we fled, but after a few days we returned home. One morning, while we were busy and the children were playing in front of the houses, we heard the sound of a mortar shell. I ran outside. The children’s voices were no longer heard, but the screams of the adults increased. My son, his cousin and the young neighbor who was preparing to marry had been struck: they were dead. The killing of these three angels drove us to flee: if this had not happened to them, we would have stayed in the city and would have inevitably fallen into the hands of the terrorists. It is not easy to accept this situation. Nonetheless, faith helps me to hope, for it reminds me that the dead are in the arms of Jesus. And we survivors try to forgive the aggressor because Jesus forgave his executioners. So in our dead, we believe in you, the Lord of life. We want to follow you and bear witness that your love is stronger than everything.
Let us pray together, saying: Teach us, Lord Jesus!
To love as you loved us: Teach us, Lord Jesus!
To forgive as you forgave us: Teach us, Lord Jesus!
To take the first step towards reconciliation: Teach us, Lord Jesus!
To do good without demanding recompense: Teach us, Lord Jesus!
Thirteenth Station: Jesus is taken down from the cross
(Voices of peace from a Sister from East Africa)
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?... No, through all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us (Rom 8:35.37).
It was 7 September 2022, the day when, in our country, we remember the Agreement by which our people’s right to full independence was finally recognized. Suddenly something happened that shattered our joy: a Sister, who had been a long-time missionary in our lands, was killed. Terrorists entered the house and without mercy took her life. The day of victory turned into defeat: fear and uncertainty flooded our hearts. The experience of hundreds of families who witnessed the tragic death of their loved ones became reality: in our arms lay the lifeless body of our Sister. It is not easy to witness the violent death of a family member, a friend or a neighbour, just as it is not easy to see one’s own home and possessions reduced to ashes and the future become dark. Yet this is the life of my people, it is my life. However, as we have heard and as we learn at the school of the Virgin of Nazareth, who received the lifeless Jesus into her arms and gazed upon him with love illuminated by faith, we must never stop finding the courage to dream of a future of hope, peace and reconciliation. For the love of the Risen Christ has been poured into our hearts; for he is our peace, he is our true victory. And nothing will ever separate us from his love.
Let us pray together, saying: Have mercy on us, Lord Jesus!
Good Shepherd, who gave your life for your flock: Have mercy on us, Lord Jesus!
You, who by dying destroyed death: Have mercy on us, Lord Jesus!
You, who made life pour forth from your pierced heart: Have mercy on us, Lord Jesus!
You, who from the tomb shed light on history: Have mercy on us, Lord Jesus!
Fourteenth Station: Jesus is placed in the tomb
(Voices of peace from young girls from Southern Africa)
After this Joseph of Arimathea… asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus, and Pilate gave him leave. So he came and took away his body. Nicodemus also… came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds’ weight. They took the body of Jesus, and bound it in linen cloths with the spices (Jn 19:38-40).
It was a Friday evening when the rebels raided our village. They took as many hostages as they could, deported whoever they found and loaded us down with what they had looted. On the way, they killed many men with bullets or knives. They took the women to a park. Every day we were mistreated in body and soul. Stripped of clothes and dignity, we lived naked so that we could not escape. Thankfully one day, when they sent us to get water from the river, I managed to get away. Our province is still today a place of tears and pain. When the Pope came to our continent, we placed under the cross of Jesus the clothes of the armed men, who still frighten us. In the name of Jesus we forgive them for all that they did to us. We ask the Lord for the grace of a peaceful and human coexistence. We know and believe that the tomb is not the final resting place, but that we are all called to a new life in the heavenly Jerusalem.
Let us pray together, saying: Preserve us, Lord Jesus!
In the hope that does not disappoint: Preserve us, Lord Jesus!
In the light that does not go out: Preserve us, Lord Jesus!
In the forgiveness that renews the heart: Preserve us, Lord Jesus!
In the peace that makes us blessed: Preserve us, Lord Jesus!
Concluding Prayer (Fourteen “thank yous”)
Lord Jesus, eternal Word of the Father, you became silent for us. And in the silence that leads us to your tomb, there is still a word that we want to say to you, recalling the journey of the Stations of the Cross we have traveled with you: thank you!
Thank you, Lord Jesus, for the meekness that overwhelms arrogance.
Thank you, for the courage with which you embraced the cross.
Thank you, for the peace that flows from your wounds.
Thank you, for having given us your holy Mother to be our Mother as well.
Thank you, for the love shown in the face of betrayal.
Thank you, for turning tears into smiles.
Thank you, for having loved everyone without excluding anyone.
Thank you, for the hope you instill in time of trial.
Thank you, for the mercy that heals sufferings.
Thank you, for stripping yourself of everything to enrich us.
Thank you, for having transformed the cross into the tree of life.
Thank you, for the forgiveness you offered your executioners.
Thank you, for having defeated death.
Thank you, Lord Jesus, for the light you kindled in our nights. In reconciling all divisions, you made us all brothers and sisters, children of the same Father who is in heaven:
Our Father …