Palm Sunday is the start of Holy Week on the Christian calendar. The week begins as a celebration of Jesus Christ’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem. Holy Week includes Jesus’ Passion and death on the cross, and culminates with the resurrection on Easter Sunday, as per Catholic tradition.
Pope Francis is celebrating the Palm Sunday mass at St. Peter’s Basilica. According to the Vatican, the procession and mass were scheduled to begin at 10:30 a.m. local time on March 28.
Pope Francis Is Celebrating the Palm Sunday Mass Before a ‘Limited Number of Faithful’ Due to the Ongoing Pandemic
The Palm Sunday mass has traditionally attracted large crowds to St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican. In 2019, approximately 40,000 people gathered in the square to hear Pope Francis celebrate the mass from an open-air altar in front of the basilica, VOA News reported at the time. The pope carried a braided palm branch during the opening procession.
But Catholic traditions have looked different amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The Church has drastically reduced crowd sizes to prevent spreading the virus. Congregations around the world have participated in weekly masses for more than a year now by watching online.
Safety regulations remain in place for the Palm Sunday mass. According to the Vatican, Pope Francis is celebrating “the Holy Week rites at the Altar of the Cathedra, in Saint Peter’s Basilica.” The masses will include participation from “the Cardinals, the Superiors of the Secretariat of State, and a limited number of faithful.”
The Pope Recites the Angelus Prayer After the Mass
After the mass, Pope Francis will recite the Angelus prayer, according to the Vatican. He traditionally recites this prayer in Latin.
Here is the English translation of the Angelus prayer from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops website:
The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary,
R/. And she conceived of the Holy Spirit.
V/. Behold the handmaid of the Lord,
R/. Be it done unto me according to your Word.
V/. And the Word was made flesh,
R/. And dwelt among us.
V/. Pray for us, O holy Mother of God,
R/. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
Let us pray. Pour forth, we beseech you, O Lord, your grace into our hearts: that we, to whom the Incarnation of Christ your Son was made known by the message of an Angel, may by his Passion and Cross be brought to the glory of his Resurrection. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.
Is Palm Sunday Considered a Happy Event?
Holy Week contains both celebratory and sorrowful elements in the Catholic tradition. Easter celebrates Jesus’ triumph over death and His rise symbolizes the resurrection all believers can look forward to, according to Catholic tradition. But before that, congregations mark Jesus’ sacrifice and death on the cross.
Bishop Robert J. Brennan of the Diocese of Columbus in Ohio explained to Heavy, “Palm Sunday starts out glorious as we remember Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem. However, it turns bitter as we read the Gospel story of the His Passion and Death.” He also explained that when Jesus rode into Jerusalem, the palm branches crowds placed on the ground symbolized that the people viewed Jesus as the Son of God. “Palms were a sign of victory and triumph and were often thrown down before victorious generals and kings. The crowds did this on their own and indicates that they recognized Jesus as Messiah.”
According to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Palm Sunday is a holy day of obligation because all Sundays are obligatory mass days for practicing Catholics. The other holy days of obligation that fall outside of Sundays in 2021 include the Ascension of Jesus on May 13, the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary on August 15, the Solemnity of All Saints of November 1, the Immaculate Conception on December 8 and Christmas Day.