Italian-American Catholics gather to observe Good Friday in Bensonhurst

Friday, April 14 was Good Friday, and in observance of one of the holiest days for the Catholic Church, thousands of Italian-Americans filled the streets of Bensonhurst to celebrate their faith and heritage.

Good Friday is the commemoration of Jesus Christ’s death on the cross. Participants in the procession carried their own crosses as they walked from 66th Street and 18th Avenue to St. Francis Cabrini Church on Bay 11th Street, where Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio led a closing ceremony.

Along the way, participants prayed in Italian and stopped 14 times for each of the Stations of the Cross – telling the story of Christ’s walk to death. Meditations took place at each stop, and gave participants the chance for self-reflection.

In addition to crosses, most parishioners carried candles that lit the way on their nighttime procession.  Families with ties to Mola di Bari, Italy carried two statues, as well – Our Lady of Sorrows and The Dead Christ, something that has become a Brooklyn custom.

“This is a cultural expression of faith for thousands of Americans whose families came from Italy,” said Monsignor David Cassato, pastor of St. Athanasius Church.

Bensonhurst has become a neighborhood in transition with many different cultures moving in; however, it has historically been an Italian enclave. In the 1960s when a large influx of immigrants from southern Italy settled in Bensonhurst, they brought the tradition of the procession with them.

Cassato said, “As an Italian American priest, it is a reminder of my youth with my immigrant grandparents.”

This was the 35th year that the Good Friday procession has taken place. The event takes place as a partnership between the parishes of St. Athanasius, St. Bernadette, St. Dominic, St. Finbar, St. Francis Cabrini, St. Mary, Mother of Jesus, Our Lady of Guadalupe, St. Rosalia-Regina Pacis, and Sts. Simon and Jude.

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