The cardinal was asked by Benedict XVI to write the meditations for the traditional Way of the Cross led by the Pope.
The Vatican publishing house printed 30,000 copies of the meditations, which were on sale in bookstores today. The reflections are illustrated with reproductions of the Via Crucis by Joseph Fuhrich, found in the Church of St. John Nepomuceno of Vienna, Austria.
The cardinal confided to Vatican Radio and to L'Osservatore Romano his hopes for this essential event of Holy Week, broadcast around the world.
"When the cardinal secretary of state [Tarcisio Bertone] asked me to write the texts of the Via Crucis I was surprised and, spontaneously, tried to avoid it: I thought, in fact, that I was not the right person for such a task," he confessed.
The cardinal said he drew from a synopsis of the four Gospels and the pastoral constitution from the Second Vatican Council, "Gaudium et Spes."
"The simplest thing was to try to present that what happened in Christ's passion is also the meaning of what happened, a meaning that has many levels of profundity," explained the 79-year-old cardinal.
He said the central message is that "in Jesus we see the true face of man and also the true face of God."
"It is in his cross, and of course in the resurrection -- cross and resurrection in the end are inseparable -- that this mystery of the incarnate Word, the meaning of the incarnation of Christ is revealed in its fullness, and thus we are revealed to ourselves," he reflected.
Cardinal Ruini suggested that the the Way of the Cross in the Colosseum is important "not only because so many participate and because it is broadcast worldwide, but because it helps to go to the heart of the mystery of Easter."
"I think it is a great occasion to help these persons to enter more profoundly into the heart of our faith, or to rediscover it if they were estranged," he said.
The cardinal acknowledged that this year's Way of the Cross comes in a moment of particular suffering because of the scandals of sexual abuse in the Church. He noted a spirit "which would like to uproot trust in the Church -- and I fear, in the end, faith in Christ, faith in God, from men's heart."
He explained, "There are two motives of suffering that are together: suffering for the faults of the children of the Church, in particular of priests, and suffering because of this hostile will to the Church."
Hence, the retired vicar-general for the Diocese of Rome affirmed that "going with Jesus on the way of the cross, each one of us is called to sincerely look in the face first of all our own sins."
John Paul II
Cardinal Ruini said the memory of Pope John Paul II accompanied him in preparing the meditations, particularly the image of the Polish Pope on "the last occasions in which he himself was able to make the way from the Colosseum to the Palatine: arriving to the last part of it, namely to the rather difficult stairs that lead to the Palatine, he would grip the railing with force, suffering and tenacity, determined not to give up following his Lord, also physically."
The cardinal mentioned other memories, such as "the faces of people crammed together along the barriers" that mark the Way of the Cross: faces of a "diverse humanity and quite different attitudes, yet each one showing in his own way that he was living an experience that touched him inside, realizing that the Via Crucis was addressed also to him."
"My hope is that what I have written will not be an obstacle to this desire," Cardinal Ruini concluded, "but a little help to give that personal answer that the crucified Jesus awaits from each one of us."