“We have forgotten our first love,” he continued, “our first enthusiasm and our total availability, leaving our hearts and our consecration to rust.”

But even in this shame, we also have hope, he said, praying that the Lord would “not treat us according to our merits but solely according to the multitude” of his mercy.

We have hope “that your cross turns our hardened hearts into hearts of flesh able to dream, to forgive and to love,” he prayed.

The Church has hope that she can be the voice that cries in the “desert of humanity” to prepare the way for Christ’s second coming, Francis continued, knowing that God’s truth is not based on our own understanding.

The Pope also said that we have hope that those faithful to Christ’s cross will “continue to remain faithful like yeast that gives flavor” and “that good will win in spite of Christ’s apparent defeat!”

“O Christ, we ask you to teach us to never be ashamed of your Cross, not to exploit it, but to honor and worship it, because with it you have shown us the monstrosity of our sins, the greatness of your love, injustice of our judgements and the power of your love,” he concluded.

At each of the 14 stations, the cross was carried by different people – both religious and lay – from countries around the world, including Poland, Italy, India, Africa, Egypt, Portugal, Colombia, France, China, and Israel.

At several stations, the cross was held by a family with young children.

For the third station, the cross was carried by members of the Italian organization UNITALSI, which organizes pilgrimages for people with illnesses and disabilities to visit Marian shrines, such as Lourdes.   

This year's meditations on the Stations of the Cross were written by French biblical scholar Anne-Marie Pelletier.

Using more than just the accounts of Christ’s Passion in the Gospels, Pelletier’s reflection weaved in Scripture and biblical references from both the Old and New Testaments as she reflected on how the entire life of Christ has been leading him, and us, to his ultimate sacrifice.

Pelletier’s meditations also reflected significantly on the perspective of the women along Christ's path, especially his mother, Mary.