ROME – As Holy Weeks opens this year, bringing with it the usual large-scale public events which will once again test the mettle of the Vatican’s police and security forces to keep things safe and under control, Pope Francis thanked his protectors for providing a climate of “serenity and order.”
“Thanks to your discrete and efficient work of surveillance, pilgrims who come from every part of the world to visit the tomb of the Apostle Peter are able to live this important experience of faith in tranquility,” Francis said, speaking to administrators and personnel of the Vatican’s Inspectorate of Public Security.
Popes typically meet with Vatican security personnel at the beginning of Holy Week, since it’s among the busiest times of the year in terms of papal movements and crowd control.
“This contact with events of notable religious importance, and with priests, religious and laity who collaborate with the universal mission of the Successor of Peter, certainly provide additional motives for the commitment and dedication you show in your work,” Francis said.
Although providing public security is not a specifically religious task, given the unique setting at the Vatican, Francis suggested that his police force can “reinforce your professional dedication” by “drawing vitality and vigor from the permanent truth of the Gospel.”
“By making your activity a form of witness to the special human and spiritual values of Catholicism,” he said, “you also make a contribution to the mission of the Church.”
The pontiff noted that many visitors to the Vatican, not only during Holy Week but throughout the year, aren’t necessarily Christians, including representatives of other religions, diplomats accredited to civil governments, and other delegations that find their way to Rome.
Thanks to a discrete security presence, the pope said, “these encounters of dialogue, and the visit to the witnesses of culture and faith preserved in the Vatican City State, can unfold in a climate of serenity and order.”
On Wednesday this week, Pope Francis will hold his usual weekly General Audience in St. Peter’s Square. Thursday morning he’ll celebrate the Chrism Mass for Holy Thursday at the Vatican, then move to the nearby Regina Coeli prison to celebrate the Mass of the Lord’s Supper Thursday evening, where he’ll wash the feet of 12 inmates.
The pontiff is also scheduled to visit sick prisons in the infirmary, and then spend some time in one-on-one conversations with inmates.
On Good Friday, the pope will lead a service commemorating Christ’s passion in the Vatican, and travel across Rome to participate in the annual “Way of the Cross” procession in Rome’s Colosseum.
On Saturday, Francis will lead the Easter Vigil Mass at the Vatican, beginning at 8:30 p.m. Rome time. On Easter Sunday, he’ll celebrate Mass at 10:00 a.m. before delivering his customary Urbi at Orbi blessing, to the city and the world, at noon.