By Carol Glatz
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — By reflecting on the Passion of Christ, the author of the Way of the Cross meditations for Pope Francis’ Good Friday service said he will focus on the suffering unfolding in the world today and how “the martyrs of the 21st century are undoubtedly the apostles of today.”

Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti of Perugia-Citta della Pieve told Vatican Radio that his reflections on the traditional 14 stations will blend in “references to the present day, which unfortunately is not lacking in crosses” people are forced to bear.

“Therefore, I sought to interpret the sorrow through the lens of God’s great love for humanity because otherwise sorrow doesn’t make sense,” he said Feb. 26.

“What strikes us the most is that Jesus took on the cross because he wanted to — he could have avoided it,” but he wanted to take on the sorrows of humanity, the cardinal said.

He said the theme of the family will be highlighted, especially for the fourth station when Jesus meets his mother. “Alongside the tragedy of Mary,” he said, will be reflected “the tragedy in our families, the situation of our families and young people,” the problem of employment and a lack of meaning in life.

He said he will also look at the economic insecurity many people face, the plight of those forced to flee their homes because of war and poverty, and the persecution of today’s Christians.

The sorrows afflicting both humanity and the church will receive attention, he said, and how both “need purification and reconciliation.”

Everything will be looked at in view of Easter and Christ’s resurrection — “the great message of hope that we continue to bring.”

Pope Francis asked the 73-year-old cardinal to write the meditations for his Good Friday service March 25 at Rome’s Colosseum.

The pope had met the cardinal in 2013 a month after his election when the bishops of Umbria made their “ad limina” visits to Rome to report on the status of their dioceses. The two also spent a lot of time together later that year in Assisi, the Umbrian hometown of St. Francis.

Pope Francis gave him the red hat in 2014, making him the first cardinal from Perugia in 160 years; the last Archbishop of Perugia to wear a red hat was Cardinal Gioacchino Pecci, who became Pope Leo XIII in 1878.

Cardinal Bassetti serves as president for the Umbria region in the Italian bishops’ conference.