Friday, July 18, 2008

many people lack the food
and drink that bring true joy.
They do not know,
or have forgotten,
how you wish to meet them
in the Eucharist
and share with them
your humanity and divinity.
Help us to appreciate the great gift
of your body and your blood,
the key to your Passion and ours.
Draw us into your real presence at Mass.
Help us to understand
that communion with you
also means union
with all those to whom you give yourself.
Make us generous and insightful
as we try to walk in your footsteps.
--Benedict XVI
Prayer for the Via Crucis
18 July 2008

(Fullvideo by Station: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13)...

Held before crowds estimated at a half-million, tomorrow morning's headline in the host-city's Morning Herald reads that, on "One good Friday, Sydney gave its heart to Jesus":
For three hours, Sydney was transformed into the streets of ancient Jerusalem during the spectacular re-enactment of the last hours of Jesus Christ as part of a landmark event in the World Youth Day celebrations. The Last Supper of Jesus and His disciples was conducted on the steps of St Mary's Cathedral, Jesus was condemned to death at the NSW Art Gallery, whipped and scourged at the Opera House, made a spectacular entrance by barge under Sydney Harbour Bridge to Cockle Bay and was crucified at East Darling Harbour.

At the crucifixion, it was a much more solemn crowd than that which estatically welcomed the Pope to Sydney or joined the Sydney Archbishop, Cardinal George Pell, for the World Youth Day opening Mass.

In fading light the 27-year-old actor, Alfio Stutio, was dragged to centre stage by his centurion guards, stripped of his robes then tied to a wooden and metal cross.

In what has been likened to Cathy Freeman's lighting of the Olympic cauldron, but without the mechanical hiccup, the Cross of Calvary was hydraulically raised and Jesus suffered His final torment overlooking picturesque Sydney Harbour bathed in an ephemeral sunset afterglow. Amazing Grace was sung, the Lord's Prayer recited and Jesus, in a bitter wind, promised paradise to the thief and died. His body was brought down from the cross and cradled by a weeping Mary. The dramatic ending pointed pilgrims to the message of Christ's resurrection, which will be celebrated at the closing Mass of World Youth Day at Randwick racecourse tomorrow, presided over by Pope Benedict XVI.

As Christ was held aloft on the cross last night, pilgrims thronging the waters edge were transfixed. Renee Azzopardi, 22, from Hurstville Grove, said: "It is spiritual. It is fun at the same time. It is an extraordinary event. It is pretty cool."

Jan Storms, 46, from St Paul, Minnesota, who had brought 35 pilgrims with her, said she thought the crowd reacted just as the crowd would have at the time Christ died, talking, buying food and observing the spectacle....

Unlike Mel Gibson's film depiction, The Passion Of The Christ, the violence was deliberately toned down. It was nonetheless harrowing. Under the watchful gaze of the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, standing on the Opera House steps, Jesus' hands were tied. Flanked by Roman centurions He was lifted, then lowered beneath the stage through a trapdoor, a deliberate allusion to the modern torture methods of Abu Ghraib. When He was lifted again it was by His feet. He was stripped but for a loin cloth, His body scarred by the lash.

The crown of thorns was placed on His head, and Jesus mouthed a silent scream. He and the cross were then taken by barge across the water to Darling Harbour, where thousands waited.

At station seven at Darling Harbour, Jesus stumbled on pontoons that will soon be home to luxury boats and yachts for the Sydney boat show. Jesus was helped by Simon of Cyrene, played by an Aboriginal actor. Among the wailing women were indigenous actors, a reference to the suffering of the Aboriginal community.

A small group of 80 volunteer actors played the central parts of the Passion narrative. The Stations of the Cross are one of the most familiar Catholic devotional exercises, at which the faithful focus their prayers successively on 14 scenes of what is known as Jesus' Passion - from the Latin word passio, meaning "suffering".

The church changed the Stations of Cross to a Vatican-approved scriptural version based on the New Testament to make it more appealing to all Christians. Scriptural texts, reflections and video commentaries were carefully worked so that the crucifixion did not incite anti-Semitic feeling.
PHOTOS: Getty Images(1-4); WYD2008(5)