Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of April 26, 2004
They went the Way of the Cross
1,200 marchers seek to cultivate a just peace for all
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
For more than two hours on Good Friday close to 1,200 people walked through downtown, stopping at various locations to sing and pray and reflect on the significance of the life and death of Jesus.
Leading the procession was a huge wooden cross, carried by volunteers from the different groups that organized the event.
The Outdoor Way of the Cross, which links the events of Jesus' life, death and resurrection with contemporary social issues, began at Sacred Heart School and stopped at several locations that speak to issues that challenge the community. Included were the China Gate, the Edmonton Remand Centre, Canada Place, the Women's Emergency Accommodation Centre, a scrap metal yard and the Boyle McCauley Health Centre.
"The walk is a powerful reminder that the message of the Christian Gospel remains relevant and an important event after 2,000 years," said Way of the Cross organizer Jim Gurnett, a member of the Mennonite Centre. "People of faith must speak up against injustice and violence as much now as when Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount."
Cultivating just peace
This year's theme - Cultivating Just Peace - served as a reminder to pilgrims that only when seeds of justice are sown for all that true peace will be cultivated in the world.
"Peace is not just the absence of war. It is the presence of justice, which in biblical terms means right relationships among individuals, among nations, between humanity and creation," Way of the Cross leader Linda Winski told the pilgrims just before the beginning of the procession.
"True peace cannot be achieved without a commitment to justice. And to build a peace that is rooted in justice, we must confront the injustice, the non-peace in our midst just as Jesus did and for which he was crucified."
At the China Gate at 97th Street and 107th Avenue, members of the l'Arche community for the handicapped, led people in prayers for life, stressing respect for all life. Speakers challenged the pilgrims to be like Jesus, who sought to respect the dignity of every person without discrimination or prejudice.
Many of those who took part in Good Friday's Way of the Cross have been coming out for years. Sofio Tanada of St. Theresa Parish, who carried the plywood cross donated by the Franciscans from the China Gate to the Remand Centre, has been attending faithfully since 1999.
"It has become a tradition," he said. This year, he and his wife Eva came to pray for peace in the world and to ask the Lord for better health.
At the stop in front of the Remand Centre, Angela Vitale of St. Theresa's Parish social justice committee, spoke of the need to reform Canada's justice system, which she said discriminates against the poor and the young, locking up thousands of young people for minor criminal offences.
"The conclusion from those who have studied our criminal justice system is that it discriminates against the poor and harms as many people as it helps," Vitale said. "The Canadian justice system is a big failure that pushes young people into crime instead of helping them get out of it."
At the stop in front of Canada Place, members of the United Church led the pilgrims in prayer for better government, one that serves the interests of all its citizens, not just the interests of the rich and powerful.
"Are we, as citizens, putting pressure on our government to provide adequate food, clothing and housing to all its citizens?" the group asked the marchers. "Are we concerned about the lack of equal distribution of wealth to people in our city, province, country and world?"
Denounce violence, abuse
At station four, in front of the Women's Accommodation Centre, the pilgrims prayed against violence and all forms of abuse, saying,
"We are called to act with justice,
We are called to love tenderly,
We are called to serve one another,
To walk humbly with God!"
At the junkyard south of Bissell Centre students from St. Francis Xavier High School urged the pilgrims to do their part to help preserve the world's natural resources and to renew the planet. "What does the Bible says about stewardship of the earth?"
Following their presentation, St. Francis Xavier students Craig Brown, Mark Sommerville and Michael Hulbert carried the cross to the next stop - the Boyle McCauley Health Centre.
"Carrying this cross makes me feel closer to Jesus," commented Brown, 18. "In a way, I feel like I'm paying him back for all the things he did for us. This brings me a step closer to understanding how he must have felt (when he carried his own cross)."
At the health centre, speakers called for the preservation and strengthening of Canada's medicare and for the creation of a more inclusive community where nobody is left out. "What are some actions we can do to build a strong, inclusive community in our city, province, country, world?" they asked. "How can Christian community help us cultivate a just peace more effectively than our solitary actions?"
Rodrigo Loyola, a member of Development and Peace, and Raul Rodas, a member of the Voice of the Voiceless youth group, helped carry the cross from the health centre back to Sacred Heart School. "It's heavy, but it's worth it," commented Rodas. "It's a powerful symbol of love and sacrifice."
The outdoor Way of the Cross began in 1981 when a group of Catholics decided a more visible expression of their faith was needed. Other churches quickly became involved. Organizers say the procession is held in the inner city because that's where Jesus would have worked. Preparations for the event's 25th anniversary next year are already underway with a meeting scheduled for May 31 at 7 p.m. at St. Faith's Church Parish Hall, 11725-93 St.
Gurnett, one of the event's organizers, said the Outdoor Way of the Cross is not just a celebration of Jesus sacrifice but a powerful reminder that many of the things he struggled against more than 2,000 years ago - poverty, injustice and discrimination - are still around.