Lent this year unfolds as the world continues to battle with the Covid-19 pandemic, which brings with it unprecedented difficulties, including disruptions to travel for pilgrims to the Holy Land during this period.
In light of this situation, the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land has launched a virtual Way of the Cross project titled “Hic – On the Way of the Cross,” for pilgrims during Lent because the Holy Land, for the second year in a row, is not accessible due to the ongoing health emergency.
The project, conceived by the Franciscans after realizing the impossibility of pilgrimages this year, aims at providing a way for the faithful to be able to join in a Way of the Cross that would connect them to the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem
Far apart, yet together in prayer
In an interview with Vatican News, Brother Francesco Patton, OFM, the Custos of the Holy Land, said that since pilgrims cannot physically come to the Holy Land to walk the Via Dolorosa every Friday, as is the pious practice, the Franciscans thought of helping them do so virtually, knowing that “all over the world, many have their eyes and hearts turned towards Jerusalem.”
It is a journey, the Custos explained, that involves reflecting on the traditional stations of the Way of the Cross, with meditations that can help “the faithful pilgrims scattered throughout the world to find the deepest meaning of their lives, of their existence.”
It is also “a message of hope in a time like the one we are living – a time of difficulty and suffering,” it offers an Easter perspective because that is the meaning of the Way of the Cross.”
Videos for each station
In the 13 short videos of the Way of the Cross project, a friar from a different Franciscan Holy Land shrine will narrate a message about each station of the Cross in his own language, providing for a moment of meditation.
Videos were filmed in various locations including in Syria, Jerusalem, Greece and Tel Aviv, Israel. Among the languages spoken by the friars are English, Tamil, Tagalog, Indonesian, German, Italian, Spanish and Mandarin.
Brother Patton explained that each of the videos is specifically linked to the places where Jesus walked on the Way of the Cross. He added that the videos are enriched with images and details that help people to understand the places referred to in the Gospels as well as the spirituality of those places, in order to bring the mystery of the Way of the Cross into the present.
Keeping contact with the faithful
In the wake of the vaccination campaigns against the Covid-19 virus beginning in many countries, Brother Patton is hopeful that Easter 2021 will be celebrated in a more serene manner than the previous year.
He explained that vaccination efforts have begun among the population of the Holy Land but the country still has precautionary measures in place. He added that the absence of pilgrims has had consequent economic effects on many business owners, especially in Bethlehem and Jerusalem.
“What we try to do for the pilgrims is to transmit, as much as possible, the various feasts that are linked to the individual sanctuaries.” In this way, he continued, “the virtual pilgrims – people of flesh and bone – who have visited the Holy Land, can visit the places in which their faith has grown.”
During Holy Week, all the most important moments will be broadcast, including the Easter Triduum at the Holy Sepulcher, with the celebration of the Holy hour at Gethsemane and the so-called Funeral of Jesus in the Holy Sepulcher.
Brother Patton added that throughout the year there will be a series of celebrations “to allow the faithful from around the world, and pilgrims, to feel in touch with this land, in the hope that they may soon return.”
The videos will be posted every Tuesday and Friday until 30 March, the Tuesday of Holy Week. They are accessible on the social media pages of the Custody of the Holy Land.