The youth of Lebanon received the invitation from Pope Benedict XVI to take part in this year's Stations of the Cross – or Via Crucis – following the Holy Father's apostolic visit to Lebanon, and were invited to compose meditations for the event. A delegation of 45 Lebanese youth have come to Rome on pilgrimage for this evening's Via Crucis with Pope Francis.
Father Toufic bou Hadir, coordinator of the bureau for youth in the Maronite Catholic Church in Lebanon, told ZENIT that these Via Crucis meditations represent Lebanese youth from all sectors of life: the disabled, seminarians and religious, young people from apostolic movements, and those involved in ecumenical and interreligious dialogue, university students, and collegiate youth. They also incorporated excerpts from the Bible, as well as from the apostolic exhortation Ecclesia in Medio Oriente and other apostolic letters.
Father Hadir recounted how the meditations were submitted to the Vatican for review Feb. 10, the day before Pope Benedict announced his resignation.
He said that, although they were disappointed Pope Benedict would not be present, they were nevertheless hopeful "because the Lord, as Benedict said, is the captain of the Church: He will never let her sink."
"When Pope Francis was elected we were filled with joy and hope," he said, noting how, in a way, "the Lebanese youth were the bridge between Benedict XVI and his successor."
In writing the Via Crucis meditations, Father Hadir continued, they incorporated all of the suffering of the Middle East: "all the martyrs and victims, all the discriminations, all the hope of the youth, all the problems of the youth."
These meditations, however, "are not only for the orient and the Lebanese: they are universal. We put a lot of care and deep Oriental spirituality in these prayers, and now we unify this prayer with the passion and suffering of Jesus, our Lord, and with the prayer of the communion, to [help us] arrive at the Resurrection."
In a region striving for a new "Spring," Fr. Hadir said it is his hope that these prayers will serve as a reminder that "the only Spring coming is the Spring shining in the way of the Cross, the way of prayer, the way of belief, of faith, the arrival at the Spring of resurrection, and the Spring of hope."
Tony El Chayeb is a member of one of the movements in Lebanon invited to come participate in this year's Via Crucis with the Holy Father. His group was asked to compose the meditation for Station X, which reflects on Jesus' garments being removed.
"We felt that, really, God is in inviting us to reflect seriously for the message to the whole world," he said. "All the youth felt this to be a big responsibility – like a mission. It is their opportunity to express faith, their communion with the whole world."
"We believe that, among the youth, there is a very new hope. You can see many of them are not really interested in politics, and not waiting for anything from the politicians. … But from the other side, Christ is there. We have also the life among the youth, and this is spreading."
He noted how the apostolic visit of Pope Benedict XVI was very significant for the people of Lebanon. "Before the visit, they were saying 'we need to escape,' but after, they said "this is our mission. And we need the whole Church to support us and be in communion with us in this mission – not to escape from our Cross. Here, there will be the Resurrection.'"