Pope Francis presides over scaled-back service
Easter Vigil traditional Holy Week celebration
VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis celebrated a trimmed-back Easter Vigil service Saturday after having reached out to Muslims and women during a Holy Week in which he began to put his mark on the Catholic Church.
Francis processed into a darkened and silent St. Peter’s Basilica at the start of the service, in which the faithful recall the period between Christ’s crucifixion on Good Friday and resurrection on Easter Sunday.
One of the most dramatic moments of the Easter Vigil service that usually follows – when the pope would share the light of his candle with others until the entire basilica twinkled – was shortened this year, as were some of the Old Testament readings.
The Vatican has said these provisions were in keeping with Francis’ aim to not have his Masses go on too long. The Easter Vigil service under Benedict XVI would typically run nearly three hours. The new pope has made clear he prefers his Masses short and to the point: he was even caught checking his watch during his March 19 installation ceremony. Saturday was no different: The vigil ended just shy of 2.5 hours.
A trimmed-back vigil – and one that started earlier than usual – was just one of the novelties of this Holy Week under an Argentine Jesuit pope who just two weeks ago stunned the world by emerging from the loggia of St. Peter’s Basilica after his election with a simple “Brothers and sisters, good evening.”
In his homily Saturday, Francis kept his message simple and tied to the liturgical readings, recalling how Jesus’ disciples found his tomb empty a day after his death and were surprised and confused.
“Our daily problems and worries can wrap us up in ourselves, in sadness and bitterness, and that is where death is,” he said. “Let the risen Jesus enter your life, welcome him as a friend, with trust: He is life!”
He later baptized four men, part of the Easter Vigil ritual.
Just a few hours after the vigil ends, Francis today will celebrate Easter Mass and deliver his “Urbi et Orbi” speech, Latin for “To the city and the world.”
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