Easter is a feast of hope, a celebration of God’s mercy and a call to pray for and assist all who suffer, Pope Francis said before giving his solemn blessing “urbi et orbi” (to the city and the world).
The risen Jesus “makes us sharers of his immortal life and enables us to see with his eyes of love and compassion those who hunger and thirst, strangers and prisoners, the marginalised and the outcast, the victims of oppression and violence”, the pope said on 27 March after celebrating Easter morning Mass.
Easter in Rome dawned bright and sunny; in St Peter’s Square, the steps leading up to the basilica were turned into an abundant garden with thousands of tulips, daffodils and flowering bushes.
On Easter morning, the pope does not give a homily. Instead, with hands clasped in prayer and head bowed, he led the tens of thousands of people in the square in silent reflection.
After Mass, before giving his solemn blessing, Pope Francis said Easter should give people the courage to “blaze trails of reconciliation with God and with all our brothers and sisters”.
Speaking about Christ’s power over death and sin, the pope prayed that the Lord would touch places in the globe scarred by war, terrorism, poverty and environmental destruction.
“The risen Christ points out paths of hope to beloved Syria, a country torn by a lengthy conflict, with its sad wake of destruction, death, contempt for humanitarian law and the breakdown of civil concord,” the pope said. “To the power of the risen Lord we entrust the talks now in course.”
He prayed that the power of the Resurrection would “overcome hardened hearts and promote a fruitful encounter of peoples and cultures”, particularly in Iraq, Yemen, Libya and the Holy Land.
“May the Lord of life also accompany efforts to attain a definitive solution to the war in Ukraine, inspiring and sustaining initiatives of humanitarian aid, including the liberation of those who are detained,” he prayed.
On Easter and throughout the Holy Week liturgies that preceded it, Pope Francis showed special concern for the fate of refugees and migrants fleeing violence and poverty and for Christians facing persecution in the Middle East and other parts of the world.
At Rome’s Colosseum Good Friday, after presiding over the Stations of the Cross, the pope offered a long meditation on how Christ continues to be scorned, tortured and crucified in suffering people around the world.
“O Cross of Christ,” he said on 25 March, “today too we see you raised up in our sisters and brothers killed, burned alive, throats slit and decapitated by barbarous blades amid cowardly silence”.
“O Cross of Christ, today too we see you in the faces of children, of women and people, worn out and fearful, who flee from war and violence and who often only find death and many Pilates who wash their hands,” he said.
Two days later, celebrating the Resurrection, Pope Francis said the Easter message “invites us not to forget those men and women seeking a better future, an ever more numerous throng of migrants and refugees – including many children – fleeing from war, hunger, poverty and social injustice. All too often, these brothers and sisters of ours meet along the way death or, in any event, rejection by those who could offer them welcome and assistance”.
Celebrating the Easter vigil on 26 March, Pope Francis said Easter is a celebration of hope, one that must begin within the hearts of each Christian.
“Christ wants to come and take us by the hand to bring us out of our anguish,” he said in his homily. “This is the first stone to be moved aside this night: the lack of hope which imprisons us within ourselves. May the Lord free us from this trap, from being Christians without hope, who live as if the Lord were not risen, as if our problems were the centre of our lives.
“Today is the celebration of our hope, the celebration of this truth: nothing and no one will ever be able to separate us from his love,” the pope said.
“The Lord is alive and wants to be sought among the living,” Pope Francis said. “After having found him, each person is sent out by him to announce the Easter message, to awaken and resurrect hope in hearts burdened by sadness, in those who struggle to find meaning in life. This is so necessary today.”
During the Easter vigil, Pope Francis baptised eight women and four men.