Easter at the Vatican 2015

Pope Francis urges the faithful to a life of humility and service during the Triduum.

Pope Francis waves to the faithful as he delivers his message and blessing urbi et orbi from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica at the end of the Easter Mass.
Pope Francis waves to the faithful as he delivers his message and blessing urbi et orbi from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica at the end of the Easter Mass. (photo: Franco Origlia/Getty Images)
VATICAN CITY — To enter the mystery of Easter, one must humble oneself, not be afraid of reality and seek to live in the service of others.

This was Pope Francis’ central message as he led the Church for his third Easter celebrations as pope. He also spoke about the “weariness of priests,” proposing the correct way to rest from their labors, and washed the feet of 12 inmates at a Rome prison.

In his message and blessing urbi et orbi (to the city of Rome and to the world), he called on the Lord to bring peace to numerous countries experiencing conflict and terrorism today, especially in Africa and the Middle East.

As is customary, the liturgical celebrations began when the Pope addressed priests during his homily at the chrism Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica on Holy Thursday.


Holy Thursday

Pope Francis began by telling clergy that he often thinks and prays about their weariness, which they all experience, stressing this fatigue is “like incense, which silently rises up to heaven,” “goes straight to the heart of the Father” and is of “greatest concern” to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

But he also said rest is “a key to fruitful ministry,” as is how priests “look at the way the Lord deals with our weariness.”

“Do I know how to rest by accepting the love, gratitude and affection, which I receive from God’s faithful people? Or, once my pastoral work is done, do I seek more refined relaxations, not those of the poor, but those provided by a consumerist society?” he said.

The Lord, he reminded them, “never tired of being with people,” but seemed “renewed by their presence.” Similarly, he said priests should not “hide in our offices or go out in our cars wearing sunglasses.”

“We cannot be shepherds who are glum, plaintive or, even worse, bored,” the Pope said. “The smell of the sheep and the smile of a father [are needed] … weary, yes, but with the joy of those who hear the Lord saying: ‘Come, O blessed of my Father.’”

But he also warned of other forms of fatigue: “the weariness of enemies,” which needs to be overcome by the Word of God, and the spiritually worldly “weariness of ourselves” — the “most dangerous of them all” that comes not from “going out of ourselves” but being “self-referential.”

“Our discipleship itself is cleansed by Jesus, so that we can rightly feel ‘joyful,’ ‘fulfilled,’ ‘free of fear and guilt’ and impelled to go out ‘even to the ends of the earth, to every periphery,’” the Pope said in closing. “In this way, we can bring the Good News to the most abandoned, knowing that he ‘is with us always, even to the end of the world.’ And please, let us ask for the grace to learn how to be weary, but weary in the best of ways!”

That evening, the Pope was driven to Rebibbia prison on the outskirts of Rome, where he celebrated the Mass of the Lord’s Supper and washed the feet of six men and six women, including a mother with a small child.

During his off-the-cuff homily, the Holy Father told those present that Jesus “gave his life for you, for you, for you, for me, for each one, with first and last name, because his love is like that: personal.” Jesus, he said, “loved each one of you ‘to the end.’”

After explaining the meaning of the washing of the feet, he said: “We must have the certainty, we must be sure that the Lord, when he washes our feet, he washes everything, he purifies us! He makes us feel once again his love.”

He ended by calling on those whose feet he washed to pray the Lord “may also clean my filth, so that I may become more your slave, more of a slave in the service of people, as Jesus was.”


Via Crucis

In his meditation after leading the Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) at the Colosseum in Rome on Good Friday, the Pope explained how the humiliation and terrible suffering of Jesus on the cross makes each person aware of his or her own sins.

“In your obedience to the will of the Father, we become aware of our rebellion and disobedience,” the Pope said. “In you, sold, betrayed, crucified by your own people and those dear to you, we see our own betrayals and our own usual infidelity. In your innocence, Immaculate Lamb, we see our guilt. In your face, slapped, spat on and disfigured, we see the brutality of our sins.”

“Imprint in our heart, Lord, sentiments of faith, hope and charity, of sorrow for our sins, and lead us to repent for our sins that have crucified you,” he continued, adding that “God never forgets any of his children and never tires of forgiving us and embracing us with his infinite mercy.”

As the Pope led the Via Crucis, he had the papal almoner, Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, deliver envelopes containing a card with an Easter greeting, a picture of the Pope and some money to 300 of Rome’s poor.  


Holy Saturday

At the Easter vigil in St. Peter’s Basilica, the Pope emphasized that Easter cannot be lived “without entering into the mystery” of the holy event. It’s not “something intellectual,” but “much more” than that: It demands not being “afraid of reality” and “locked into ourselves.” It means going “beyond our comfort zone, beyond the laziness and indifference which hold us back.”

“To enter into the mystery, we need humility, the lowliness to abase ourselves,” to renounce idols and to “adore” the Lord, he said. The “women who were Jesus’ disciples teach us all of this,” and they entered into the mystery by keeping watch with the Blessed Virgin.

During the Mass, the Holy Father baptized 10 catechumens, aged 13 to 66, from diverse backgrounds. They included five women, four men and one teenage girl; four were from Italy, three were from Albania, and three others were from Cambodia, Kenya and Portugal.


Easter Sunday

The Holy Father returned to the mystery of Easter in his urbi et orbi address, stressing the need to emulate Peter and John, who “bent down” in order to enter Jesus’ tomb on Easter morning. Similarly, “we need to ‘bend down,’ to abase ourselves,” in order to “understand the glorification of Jesus” and “follow him on his way.”

Each person must “live in service to one another” and not “be arrogant, but, rather, respectful and ready to help” — an attitude that is “not weakness but true strength,” he said.


Call for Peace

The Pope then called for peace and help from the international community in a variety of trouble spots in the world today, beginning in Syria and Iraq. He called for a “culture of peace to grow” in the Holy Land and prayers for peace in Libya, imploring that the “present absurd bloodshed and all barbarous acts of violence may cease.”

He also highlighted other areas, such as Yemen, Nigeria, South Sudan, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ukraine and Kenya, where nearly 150 Christian students were massacred on Holy Thursday by the Islamist group al-Shabaab at Garissa University College.

The Holy Father also called for peace and freedom for trafficked people and victims of arms dealers and expressed hope that an agreement on Iran’s nuclear program may be a “definitive step toward a more secure and fraternal world.”

Lastly, he prayed that the “marginalized; the imprisoned; the poor and the migrants, who are so often rejected, maltreated and discarded; the sick and the suffering; children, especially those who are victims of violence,” and all those who “are in mourning and all men and women of good will hear the consoling voice of the Lord Jesus: ‘Peace to you!’

‘Fear not, for I am risen, and I shall always be with you.’”


Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.

Register illustration by Melissa Hartog

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