Today was Good Friday, and in Rome that's a big deal. Tourists have been flooding Rome ever since Holy Week started last Sunday and tonight I saw a good number of them at the annual Way of the Cross (Via Crucis) procession at the Colosseum.
The theme this year was prayer for the persecution of Christians in India, but there was also a lot of focus on the earthquake victims. Even though there is traditionally no mass held on Good Friday, they made an exception this year for the funeral of the victims.
The Way of the Cross started tonight at 9:15 and I got back to my apartment at 12:15--but it didn't seem like it took that long. When I got to the Colosseum I squeezed my way through the crowd trying to find a place that gave me a good view but wasn't too crowded. As I was doing this, I saw two people faint--the crowd was so dense and the air was stifling at times.
Most of the procession was in Italian, but when they announced each station they did it in Italian, French, English, German, Spanish and Portuguese. At the end of each station the crowd said an Our Father (in Italian). At the very end, Pope Benedict XVI gave an address to which the crowd responded with much applause.
The amount of people there was unbelievable--priests and nuns, families, old people, young people. And people speaking all sorts of languages. The atmosphere was somber, yet charged. As everyone was leaving I found myself in front of some girls with British accents. One of them was talking on the phone and I overheard her say, "Well, it was nearly two hours and there were no fireworks, but it was cool." I'm not sure exactly what she was expecting at a ceremony held on the day Jesus was nailed to the cross...