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Good Friday passion play brings crucifixion to life

Hundreds fill St. Augustine's for Viacrucis

A whip snapped across the man’s back and he yelped in anguish. The man’s face was haggard and bloodied as his tormentors pressed a crown of thorns onto his head. 

The crowd, many in leather sandals and tunics, cried out “crucíficalo!” (crucify him). Somewhere in the fray, a group of women sobbed.

The jeering crowd were all Catholic parishioners in costume for the annual Passion of Good Friday put on annually by St. Augustine’s Cathedral. The haggard man was Fr. Robert Barcelos of St. Margaret Mary's Church. The scenes leading to Jesus’s crucifixion are reenacted every year in a passion play on the Friday before Easter.

More than 800 people walked through downtown Tucson from the St. Cosme Chapel on Simpson Street to St. Augustine's on South Stone to observe and partake in “El Viacrucis,” the Stations of the Cross.

“I brought my children in order for them to learn more about what is the Holy Week and El Viacrucis,” said Braulio Moreno, 37, in Spanish.

He stood along Convent Avenue with his 5-year-old son, Jesus, to watch the procession go by.

Ana Villa also came with her family, including her 1-year-old son, Jayden, for the first time. She attends St. Margaret’s Church on North Grande Avenue, but heard about the event from her mother.

“It was just very real. It’s kind of sad to see what He went through for us,” Villa said.

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This “realness” is what the church hopes to convey through the annual event. Bishop Gerald Kicanas walked alongside the procession with other spectators and clergy members.

“It’s a very visual picture of the Lord’s suffering,” Kicanas said,“It’s one thing to read, it’s another to see it enacted.”

A Good Friday Mass at St. Augustine's followed the re-enactment. Every pew was filled, as were a number of folding chairs. 

Correction: An earlier version of this story misidentified Barcelos as a parishoner.

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Mariana Dale/TucsonSentinel.com

Fr. Robert Elias Barcelos, playing Jesus, drags a wooden cross through the street. The procession often stopped for whippings and ridicule from the guards and crowd.