If we were not in a pandemic situation and next Sunday, the second of Lent, the procession of Senhor dos Passos da Graça would go out to roam the streets of Lisbon, gathering, as usual, hundreds of people.
This procession has secular roots. It evokes the passion and death of Jesus Christ, portraying the Via Crucis of Jerusalem, and it started in 1587. In reality, it is the first Procession of the Steps, it is the precursor of many others spread across the country and the world: Timor, India or Brazil just to give a few examples.
This manifestation of faith, which is usually the first in the time of Lent, turned out to be the last held last year, as it took place a few days before the pandemic was decreed. At the time, the Episcopal Conference made the decision to cancel all face-to-face religious ceremonies, a situation that was repeated in January this year due to the seriousness of the Covid-19 contagion numbers.
This year, the Real Irmandade da Santa Cruz and Passos da Graça, responsible since the first day for this procession, which traditionally takes place on the second Sunday of Lent, will mark this date, although in a different way, he explains in an interview to Renaissance the Brotherhood provider, Francisco Mendia.
It is the first time that the procession has not been able to take to the streets in several centuries. What’s the feeling?
In fact, for us it is a source of great sadness, even though we understand that we cannot do things as we did every year. This Brotherhood has existed since 1586 and we have been running this procession since 1587, uninterrupted. So, for us, it is a source of great sadness, but we will adapt.
Next Sunday, at 11 am, we will have a mass that will be presided over by D. Américo Aguiar, auxiliary bishop of Lisbon. Mr. Américo, at the end of the Mass, will give the usual blessing to the city of Lisbon, in Largo da Igreja da Graça: he will go out and give that blessing.
This will be a mass transmitted in the ways we are used to and how it is possible now: it will be transmitted by Renaissance and through several digital channels – namely the Brotherhood channels, the Ecclesia channels, the Patriarchate channels and the Renaissance channels themselves, among other communication channels that will also be associated with this ceremony. It’s possible this year.
This procession has, moreover, a great connection to the city of Lisbon.
It is true. Since the beginning, the people of Lisbon have adhered to this devotion that we have to Senhor dos Passos and it is a procession that crosses the heart of Lisbon: we are talking about a procession that leaves the Church of São Roque and goes to the Church of Grace, they are close to three kilometers.
This is the longest route, because it has already had a shorter route, isn’t it?
It is, after 1910, with the implantation of the Republic and the persecutions to the Church, the Brotherhood decided to make a smaller, more modest procession, so to speak. We only resumed the original procession in 2013, with a single exception in 1987, on the occasion of the 400th anniversary of the Brotherhood, in which the large procession was held again. But we only resumed the procession in 2013 in its original size.
What came together at that time, for this to be possible?
There were several factors. The Brotherhood has grown considerably in number of brothers. There was a new wave of brothers. Every year we admit 30 or 35 new brothers, so there was a very big growth at that time, which allowed us to take all the tools of the procession. Just to give you a small idea, the Senhor dos Passos walker has to be carried by ten men; the canopy, where the Cardinal Patriarch goes, is carried by eight people.
On paths that are not easy, because Lisbon is the city of the seven hills …
On paths that are not easy, especially the climb up the Calçada dos Cavaleiros. For those who are not watching, it is going from Martim Moniz to Graça: it is a very steep climb! So it is not easy; there are older people who insist on going on the walk in Senhor dos Passos or the walk in Nossa Senhora, often fulfilling promises, and often ending up having to be replaced. We are talking about a very large weight.
It is worth remembering, for those who are not so familiar with this procession, that there are several stops, depicting the Way of the Cross. The route, by the way, is identical in terms of compliance, isn’t it?
The route is more or less the same as the Way of the Cross. We are talking about seven Steps; seven sermons are read from the various passages. In the past there were four small chapels that we call “Passos”: they are small, shallow chapels, where there is an image of the sermon that is read in that passage. There were four initial chapels and then there were other pieces of furniture: there was the Church of São Roque, which was where the procession came from, there was the Church of Graça at the end and, in the middle, we had four more Steps that were erected by the Brotherhood; there was also a mobile chapel that was there by the Church of the Incarnation, nearby.
Of these four small chapels that we had, two disappeared with the growth of the city: one was in Rossio and another was in Martim Moniz, in front of the Church of Nossa Senhora da Saúde. There were two: one was always in the possession of the Brotherhood, in Largo Terreirinho, which is more or less halfway between Martim Moniz and Graça; and there was another one, which was no longer in our possession in 1912, the result of a judicial war with the owner of the building, which is a little further up, almost in Graça, in the building in Largo Rodrigo de Freitas – it is Passo de Santo André, in the building where São João de Brito was born.
Finally, as a result of several conversations, in 1914 the Lisbon Chamber gave the Brotherhood usufruct and later, in 2019, the Brotherhood bought this chapel for a symbolic value from the owners who had purchased the property from the Chamber. So, last year was an immense joy for us, because in 2020 we managed to re-open this chapel that we had lost for more than 100 years. It was a very important event for us.
The brothers are about 500 now. Who are these people who are part of the Brotherhood? Are they very different from each other? Is there a profile that can be drawn?
No, there is no profile that can be drawn. We can say that we have many people from families that have always been linked to the Brotherhood. We have many brothers. There is a curious case of a family that has been in the Brotherhood for 14 successive generations … I think it is a unique case in Portugal. The son of one of the Brothers we have there is the 14th generation, it is impressive! And we have a lot of people like that, we have a lot of people brought by these people; we have a lot of people from Grace; there are also many people who have a great devotion to Nosso Senhor dos Passos and who join the Brotherhood.
We cannot forget one thing: Senhor dos Passos was Lisbon’s great devotion. It’s funny, just watch the old Portuguese films, with Vasco Santana and others, and they always talk about Senhor dos Passos. There is a passage in one of the films – now I don’t remember which one – in which someone says that going to Lisbon without seeing Senhor dos Passos is the same as going to Rome and not seeing the Pope … something like that. Anyway, Senhor dos Passos was always very popular and was the great devotion of Lisbon.
It is very interesting to see very different people taking part in the procession, it is surprising to see the number and diversity of personalities that sometimes come together there …
It is true, I think this is due to the Lord of the Steps. It is not our responsibility. In recent years we have had mr. President of the Republic, he is kind enough to join us. As far as he explained to me, he went to the Procession of Senhor dos Passos when he was a child and, therefore, he joins today every year to the procession of Senhor dos Passos. We have the Mayor, we have all the councilors, we have ambassadors, presidents of the parish council, we have the Duke of Bragança, in short, participation in the Senhor dos Passos Procession is very varied.
Whoever comes from outside is surprised by this diversity of people, all with the same purpose and, therefore, it is also something that moves us, Brotherhood. We like to bring this spirit that is the Easter spirit and that we believe must exist. I cannot forget also the always permanent and constant support of the Cardinal Patriarch who was the person, over the years, who always encouraged us to resume the big procession, the procession as it was originally.
I was just talking about what moves the Brotherhood. Looking also at his career – he is a man connected to communication, he is an administrator at Cunha Vaz consultores -, with this professional activity, with his family, what moves him in this delivery of years to the Irmandade do Senhor dos Passos?
A matter of faith. I am also familiar with the Brotherhood of Senhor dos Passos: my mother entered very early, my grandfather also very early and so on. So there is this call, this family call if you like, and then it is a matter of faith. It has always been part of my life. In fact, we have brothers there who bring their almost newborn children to be brothers of Senhor dos Passos, it is an impressive thing.
There is a great sense of belonging. Which means that, for us, this is part of our Lenten journey. That is why I had a moment ago that for us it is an immense sadness that the procession cannot leave: this preparation of the Procession of Senhor dos Passos is the main object of the Brotherhood.
The Brotherhood of Senhor dos Passos was created in 1586 to make the procession: it was created by a saint painter, Luís Álvares de Andrade, who wanted to make a procession somewhat similar to those made in Seville. And with the archbishop of the time, D. Miguel Castro, they created this Brotherhood to make exactly this procession. So, what binds me? Connect my faith and connect my story.
Source: Renascença – Noticias by rr.sapo.pt.
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