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ROME – Just one week after he left Rome’s Gemelli Hospital after struggling to breathe due to a bout of bronchitis, Pope Francis celebrated the victory of hope over despair, of life over death, during an Easter vigil Mass Saturday.
“Today the power of Easter summons you to roll away every stone of disappointment and mistrust,” he said. “The Lord is an expert in rolling back the stones of sin and fear.”
Francis also was set to celebrate the sacrament of baptism during the course of the liturgy, welcoming eight new members into the church from Albania, the United States, Nigeria, Italy and Venezuela.
As has become his custom, Pope Francis, who arrived in St. Peter’s Basilica in a wheelchair, “presided” over the vigil Mass but did not “celebrate,” meaning he did not offer the Eucharistic prayers from the altar. Roughly 40 cardinals and 25 bishops concelebrated along with the principal celebrant, British Cardinal Arthur Roche, prefect of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.
Francis did, however, deliver his homily.
“It is easy to yield to disillusionment, once the wellspring of hope has dried up,” the pope said, referring to the experience of the women in the New Testament who made their way to the tomb where Christ had been buried after his death on the Cross.
That lack of hope, Francis told a congregation estimated by the Vatican at 8,000 people, is a common experience.
“At times, we may simply feel weary about our daily routine, tired of taking risks in a cold, hard world where only the clever and the strong seem to get ahead,” he said.
“At other times, we may feel helpless and discouraged before the power of evil, the conflicts that tear relationships apart, the attitudes of calculation and indifference that seem to prevail in society, the cancer of corruption, the spread of injustice, the icy winds of war,” the pope said.
Yet the power of Christ’s resurrection, the pope said, is to transform hopeless and despair into new energy and a sense of purpose.
“It motivates us to move forward, to leave behind our sense of defeat, to roll away the stone of the tombs in which we often imprison our hope, and to look with confidence to the future, for Christ is risen and has changed the direction of history,” he said.
God, Francis suggested, is the ultimate answer to fear.
“Let us rise to new life!” he said.
Tomorrow, Francis is scheduled to preside over an Easter Sunday Mass at 10:00 a.m. Rome time and then deliver his traditional Urbi et Orbi address, “to the city and the world,” at noon. On Easter Monday, Pope Francis will deliver a noontime Regina Coeli address from the window of the papal apartments overlooking St. Peter’s Square.