While Benedict XVI carried the wooden cross for the first and last of the time-honored 14 markers of the passion and death of Christ, it was borne mostly by young people and families representing each continent.
The following is an English translation of the brief remarks given by the Holy Father at the close of the almost three-hour vigil.
Following Jesus along the way of his passion, we see not only the suffering of Jesus, but also all the suffering of the world; this is the deep intention of the prayer of the Way of the Cross: to open our hearts and to help us to see with our hearts.
The Fathers of the Church considered insensitivity, the hardness of heart, as the greatest sin of the pagan world and so loved the prophecy of Ezekiel: "I will take your heart of stone and will give you a heart of flesh" (Ez 36:26). To convert ourselves to Christ, to become Christian, is to receive a heart of flesh, a sensitive heart for the agony and suffering of others.
Our God is not a faraway God, untouchable in his blessedness: our God has a heart. Rather, he has a heart of flesh, made flesh itself to suffer with us and to be with us in our sufferings. He made himself man to give us a heart of flesh and to reawaken in us a love for the suffering, for the needy.
Let us pray to the Lord in this hour for all the afflicted of the world. Let us pray to the Lord that he may really give us a heart of flesh and make us messengers of His love not only with words, but with all our life. Amen.
PHOTO: Maurizio Brambatti/Pool