Italy Pope Good Friday

Pope Francis presides over the Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) torchlight procession on Good Friday in front of Rome's Colosseum, March 30, 2018. 

Editor's note: This editorial, with slight modifications, has appeared on previous Good Fridays in this newspaper.

Good Friday, the most solemn day in the Christian church, is an occasion to reflect on the suffering that often touches the human experience, and how that suffering connects us with each other — and with the wider currents of history.

Pain is such a universal human experience that Good Friday's observances also can resonate with those of other faiths, and with those who claim no religious faith.

The biblical story of a great religious teacher nailed to a cross is a reminder of how the Roman Empire handled political dissent. The ancient Roman authorities used crucifixion not only to punish common criminals, but also as a means to silence those who refused to conform to the empire's wishes.

The biblical account of the crucifixion is so horrible that we'd like to believe humanity no longer has a capacity for such cruelty. Sadly, though, political oppression and torture remain all too common today.

To read the headlines from Syria, a place not too far from the land Jesus walked 2,000 years ago, is to be reminded that in many ways, not much has changed in the human character since the days of Caesar. The leaders of that benighted land "won" their civil war at vast cost to their people.

Illness and death are not that far away this holy season, as thousands die across this country and the world from a deadly coronavirus pandemic. Just as it was last year, the life-threatening illnesses remain with us.

In such a world, the message of burdens, and sharing, should have special meaning.

In a broader sense, Good Friday acknowledges suffering in all its forms. As Christians are fond of saying, we all have our crosses to bear, which is a wise recognition that most lives will, in some way, be touched with pain. Human history includes many stories of pain, but it also is touched by numerous examples of those who have channeled their suffering into something noble and instructive.

Today, our thoughts and prayers are with suffering souls in our community and throughout the world — lives touched by sickness of body or spirit, by crime or war, by hunger or hopelessness.

Good Friday is a day to remember the human capacity not only to endure suffering, but to transcend it.

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