Saturday, July 20, 2024

‘The Most Important and Beautiful Day of History’: Pope Francis on Easter 2023

Pope Francis presided over Mass in St. Peter’s Square on Easter Sunday 2023, before giving the traditional Urbi et Orbi blessing in the presence of around 100,000 people.

On a sunny and cool spring day in Rome, the pope recalled that Easter is “the most important and beautiful day of history,” the day Christ rose from the dead.

“Let the Church and the world rejoice, for today our hopes no longer come up against the wall of death, for the Lord has built us a bridge to life,” he said from the central loggia of St. Peter’s Basilica.

Following a 38-year custom, the sagrada of St. Peter’s Basilica was decorated with an array of over 35,000 flowers and plants from the Netherlands.

Pope Francis, who returned to the Vatican April 1 after three days in a Rome hospital for treatment for bronchitis, had presided over an intense week of liturgies at the Vatican and in Rome for Holy Week and Easter.

Because of the cold weather, he did not attend Good Friday’s Stations of the Cross at the Colosseum, but otherwise maintained the customary papal schedule.

Three hundred priests, 15 bishops, and 31 cardinals concelebrated Pope Francis’ Easter Sunday Mass on April 9. Cardinal Battista Re celebrated at the altar due to Francis’ difficulty walking and standing.

The Gospel reading, John 20:1-9, was proclaimed in Latin and Greek. The passage recounts the moment in which Mary Magdalene and the apostles Peter and John found the empty tomb after Jesus’ resurrection.

As is his custom, Pope Francis did not give a homily after the Gospel, but stayed a few moments in silent prayer.

The pope also participated April 9 in the “Resurrexit,” an ancient rite honoring an icon of the Holy Savior.

The ritual sequence, sung in Latin, recalls how the apostle Peter, of whom the pope is the successor, was one of the first witnesses to Christ’s resurrection, after St. Mary Magdalene.

While the “Resurrexit” was sung, deacons opened the panels of the icon of the Holy Savior next to the altar.

After Mass, Pope Francis greeted the estimated 45,000 people gathered in St. Peter’s Square from the popemobile.

He drove around the square and adjoining street for almost 15 minutes before returning to the basilica to give the Urbi et Orbi message and blessing at 12 p.m.

When Pope Francis stepped out on the balcony, a band played portions of Italy’s national anthem.

“Urbi et Orbi” means “To the City [of Rome] and to the World.” It is a special apostolic blessing given by the pope every year on Easter Sunday, Christmas, and other special occasions.

“Today is Easter, the Pasch, a word that means ‘passage,’ for in Jesus the decisive passage of humanity has been made: the passage from death to life, from sin to grace, from fear to confidence, from desolation to communion in him. In him, the Lord of time and history, I would like to say to everyone, with heartfelt joy, Happy Easter to all!” he said.

He wished that this Easter would be “a passage from affliction to consolation,” especially for the sick, the poor, and the suffering.

“We are not alone: Jesus, the Living One, is with us, forever,” he said. “Let the Church and the world rejoice, for today our hopes no longer come up against the wall of death, for the Lord has built us a bridge to life.”

In his message, Pope Francis prayed for the people in countries suffering from war, conflict, or natural disaster, including Ukraine, Russia, Turkey, Syria, Jerusalem, Lebanon, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Myanmar.

He asked the Lord to help the African countries of South Sudan, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Tunisia, Eritrea, Burkina Faso, Mali, Ethiopia, and Mozambique.

“Let us make haste to surmount our conflicts and divisions, and to open our hearts to those in greatest need,” he urged. “Let us hasten to pursue paths of peace and fraternity. Let us rejoice at the concrete signs of hope that reach us from so many countries, beginning with those that offer assistance and welcome to all fleeing from war and poverty.”

“Yes, brothers and sisters,” Pope Francis said, “at Easter the destiny of the world was changed, and on this day, which also coincides with the most probable date of Christ’s resurrection, we can rejoice to celebrate, by pure grace, the most important and beautiful day of history.”

“‘Christ is risen; he is truly risen!’ In this traditional proclamation of the Churches of the East: Christòs anesti! That word ‘truly’ reminds us that our hope is not an illusion, but the truth!” he said. “And that, in the wake of Easter, humanity’s journey, now marked by hope, advances all the more readily.”

(Photos by Pablo Esparza, CNA.)

By Hannah Brockhaus, Catholic News Agency

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