Happy Easter! For more than two billion Catholics and other Christians worldwide, today is the holiest day on the religious calendar because it’s the celebration of Jesus Christ’s resurrection from the dead.
Pope Francis celebrated the Easter mass at St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City. The mass was scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. local time, according to the Vatican. That corresponds with 4 a.m. Eastern time, 3 a.m. Central time and 1 a.m. for people in the Pacific time zone. (See other corresponding times here).
Pope Francis Is Celebrating the Easter Mass But Viewers May Notice Him Limp
On Easter Sundays before the pandemic, tens of thousands of believers would crowd into St. Peter’s Square to hear the mass and receive the pope’s blessing. But as the Vatican explained before the start of Holy Week, all masses would again be celebrated at the “Altar of the Cathedra” inside Saint Peter’s Basilica along “with the participation of the Cardinals, the Superiors of the Secretariat of State, and a limited number of faithful.”
Viewers watching the mass may notice Pope Francis moving oddly. The Associated Press reported that during Good Friday events, the pope was “limping badly” due to a “bad bout” of sciatica. It’s a nerve condition that causes lower back and leg pain. Pope Francis has been suffering from the condition for several years and the pain has sometimes forced him to cancel certain public appearances, according to the Catholic News Agency.
This is the second Easter in a row that the Vatican has scaled back its Holy Week services due to the coronavirus. Pope Francis traditionally washed the feet of believers, sometimes at a prison or medical center, as part of Holy Thursday rituals. But that practice was canceled again this year.
The Way of the Cross was also a noticeably smaller event. The procession is normally held at the Colosseum in Rome and draws thousands of people. This year, the Way of the Cross was held in St. Peter’s Square (watch the video here).
As part of the event, the pope also listened to children as they told their stories of how COVID-19 had upended their lives, the Vatican explained. (Also called the Stations of the Cross, the Way of the Cross commemorates the events of Good Friday. Catholics mark everything that happened to Jesus on his final day, from his arrest to his burial).
Pope Francis Delivered His Easter Blessing, Called the ‘Urbi et Orbi,’ Immediately After the Mass
The pope traditionally delivers a special blessing after the Easter Sunday mass. The blessing is known as the “Urbi et Orbi.” The phrase is Latin for “to the city and world,” as the Vatican explained.
Pope Francis began the 2021 Easter blessing, which you can read in full here, with a message about remaining hopeful despite the world’s woes, such as the pandemic and continued violent conflict:
Today, throughout the world, the Church’s proclamation resounds: “Jesus, who was crucified, has risen as he said. Alleluia!”
The Easter message does not offer us a mirage or reveal a magic formula. It does not point to an escape from the difficult situation we are experiencing. The pandemic is still spreading, while the social and economic crisis remains severe, especially for the poor. Nonetheless – and this is scandalous – armed conflicts have not ended and military arsenals are being strengthened. That is today’s scandal.
In the face of, or better, in the midst of this complex reality, the Easter message speaks concisely of the event that gives us the hope that does not disappoint: “Jesus who was crucified has risen”. It speaks to us not about angels or ghosts, but about a man, a man of flesh and bone, with a face and a name: Jesus. The Gospel testifies that this Jesus, crucified under Pontius Pilate for claiming he was the Christ, the Son of God, rose on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, just as he had foretold to his disciples.
The crucified Jesus, none other, has risen from the dead. God the Father raised Jesus, his Son, because he fully accomplished his saving will. Jesus took upon himself our weakness, our infirmities, even our death. He endured our sufferings and bore the weight of our sins. Because of this, God the Father exalted him and now Jesus Christ lives forever; he is the Lord.
Pope Francis described the distribution of vaccines as a “global responsibility” in the fight against COVID-19:
The risen Christ is hope for all who continue to suffer from the pandemic, both the sick and those who have lost a loved one. May the Lord give them comfort and sustain the valiant efforts of doctors and nurses. Everyone, especially the most vulnerable among us, requires assistance and has the right to have access to necessary care. This is even more evident in these times when all of us are called to combat the pandemic. Vaccines are an essential tool in this fight. I urge the entire international community, in a spirit of global responsibility, to commit to overcoming delays in the distribution of vaccines and to facilitate their distribution, especially in the poorest countries.
He talked about how the pandemic had stripped people of the ability to connect in person and how important those bonds are:
The risen Jesus is also hope for all those young people forced to go long periods without attending school or university, or spending time with their friends. Experiencing real human relationships, not just virtual relationships, is something that everyone needs, especially at an age when a person’s character and personality is being formed. We realized this clearly last Friday, in the Stations of the Cross composed by the children. I express my closeness to young people throughout the world and, in these days, especially to the young people of Myanmar committed to supporting democracy and making their voices heard peacefully, in the knowledge that hatred can be dispelled only by love.
Pope Francis highlighted the plight of “migrants fleeing from war and extreme poverty.” He also pointed to ongoing violence in places such as Syria, Libya, Nigeria and Israel and called for peaceful resolutions:
There are still too many wars and too much violence in the world! May the Lord, who is our peace, help us to overcome the mindset of war. May he grant that prisoners of conflicts, especially in eastern Ukraine and Nagorno-Karabakh, may return safely to their families, and may he inspire world leaders to curb the race for new weaponry. Today, April 4, marks the International Awareness Day against anti-personnel landmines, insidious and horrible devices that kill or maim many innocent people each year and prevent humanity from “walking together on the paths of life without fearing the threat of destruction and death!” How much better our world would be without these instruments of death!
Pope Francis wrapped up the Urbi et Orbi with this message:
Amid the many hardships we are enduring, let us never forget that we have been healed by the wounds of Christ. In the light of the Risen Lord, our sufferings are now transfigured. Where there was death, now there is life. Where there was mourning, now there is consolation. In embracing the cross, Jesus bestowed meaning on our sufferings and now we pray that the benefits of that healing will spread throughout the world. A good, happy and serene Easter to all of you!