Crucifixion re-enactments mark Good Friday

At St. John of God Roman Catholic Church in Central Islip, hundreds of faithful Catholics gathered for the Stations of the Cross, a Good Friday Passion Play. Videojournalist: Joseph D. Sullivan (March 29, 2013)

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The man portraying Jesus carried a huge cross and fell to the ground for a second time on the streets around St. John of God Roman Catholic Church in Central Islip. Roman soldiers in red capes and silver helmets yelled "levantate" -- "get up."

Then they mocked him, saying "el rey de los judios" -- "king of the Jews" -- and punctuating it with a "ha!"

Across Long Island, thousands of Christians marked Good Friday by taking part in stations of the cross. The events recalled Jesus' condemnation to death 2,000 years ago, his journey to Calvary carrying the cross, and finally his crucifixion and death.

The faithful believe that three days later, Jesus rose from the dead on Easter Sunday, the most important day on the Christian calendar.

Friday's commemorations ranged from people solemnly reciting prayers as they walked the 14 stations of the cross, to elaborate re-enactments such as the Spanish-language one that drew about 500 people to St. John of God.

The soldiers "whipped" Jesus with chains and rope, and smacked him on the back with shields. Parishioners also took on the roles of Pontius Pilate, Jesus' mother Mary, and Veronica, a woman who feels pity for the suffering Jesus and offers him a veil to wipe his bleeding forehead.

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The stations of the cross, or Via Crucis in Latin, is especially popular in Latin America and U.S. Latino communities because Hispanics can relate at least as much to Jesus' crucifixion as they can to his resurrection on Easter, said the Rev. Christopher Nowak, pastor of St. John of God.

"His passion continues throughout the world," Nowak said, referring to the passion of Jesus, or his notorious suffering and public death. "Jesus Christ is still dying on the cross through poverty, war and violence."

Marjorie Villamar, 62, of Central Islip, said she took the day off from work at a business that makes airplane lights so she could attend the Via Crucis. When it was over, she said in Spanish that she could almost "feel the pain that he felt."

Though participants were mostly Latino, others also attended. Walter Morley, 74, of Commack, said he and his wife, Georgianna, came partly because they wanted to see "the Lord's passion being acted out by people who have a very deep feeling for the Christian beliefs."

At another parish, St. Lawrence the Martyr in Sayville, about 100 people quietly processed to 14 stations outside the church Friday. They listened to the story of Jesus' passion and to short reflections on what his suffering means today.

"It's a profoundly poignant, meaningful day," said the Rev. Brian Ingram, pastor of St. Lawrence. "It often helps people to find strength in the midst of their own daily struggles."

Jody Colon, 42, of Sayville, said she attended to further expose her children to the faith. She added: "God was upon us with this beautiful weather."

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