Pope's Easter celebrations remember those who suffer
By Vatican News
This year's Easter celebrations at the Vatican include the participation of large numbers of faithful following two years of restrictions due to the pandemic.
At the same time, this joy for the 'return to normality' does not include an end to the pain and sadness for the suffering of so many people, in particular with those in Ukraine who are suffering the atrocities of war.
This reality was underlined during the customary briefing for the global broadcasts of the Easter celebrations to be presided over by the Pope.
The meeting took place on Good Friday morning in the Marconi Hall of the Palazzo Pio building housing Vatican Radio/Vatican News. Alessandro Gisotti, deputy editorial director of the Vatican Media, introduced and moderated by the briefing, with information given by Stefano D'Agostini, coordinator of the Vatican Media's Audiovisual Production Department, Roberto Romolo, head of International Broadcast Relations, and Brunella Olivari, RAI - Italy's public broadcaster - director of the transmission of the Way of the Cross at the Colosseum.
At the briefing, it was noted that after two years, the Way of the Cross has returned to its traditional venue where it began in 1964 with Pope Paul VI, although also one year in 1959 took place at the Flavian Amphitheater at the request of Pope John XXIII. The meditations, briefing presenters recalled, were entrusted by the Pope to families with various experiences.
This year's Way of the Cross includes five stations inside the Colosseum and nine outside. The Sistine Chapel Choir will open and accompany the Rite, while live television will show images of taken from devotional books from the 15th century, kept in the Vatican Library. More than 150 international broadcasters will be linked-up live to follow the celebration, while this number is likely to grow more for the Urbi et Orbi Easter blessing. As in previous years, increasingly the broadcasts will be distributed and shared through various online platforms.
To understand the way Pope Francis sees the rite of the Way of the Cross, it was recalled what he had said on his first Good Friday as Pope on 29 March 2013: "The Cross is the word through which God has responded to evil in the world. Sometimes it may seem as though God does not react to evil, as if he is silent. And yet, God has spoken, he has replied, and his answer is the Cross of Christ: a word which is love, mercy, forgiveness." And he added with words that underline the spiritual dimension of the Way of the Cross: "Dear brothers and sisters, the word of the Cross is also the answer which Christians offer in the face of evil, the evil that continues to work in us and around us. Christians must respond to evil with good, taking the Cross upon themselves as Jesus did."
Moving on to the Easter Vigil, the Mass will be preceded by the evocative rite of the blessing of fire in the atrium of the Basilica and the subsequent procession while Lumen Christi is sung. Seven catechumens of different nationalities (Italian, American, Cuban, Albanian) will receive Baptism from the Pope. Considering the tragic historical moment the world is experiencing, the content of two prayer intentions is important. They ask us to pray that there may be "rulers who are artisans of dialogue and peace among peoples" and that "peoples oppressed by war may be given hope and peace".
On Easter Sunday, the Mass will return to St. Peter's Square after two years of the pandemic. At the beginning of the celebration will be the Resurrexit when the Pope will incense the icon of the Risen One. This is the Acheropita Icon of the Saviour, a work of great historical and artistic importance. One of the prayers of the faithful will be read in Ukrainian. After the Mass, the Pope will go to the Hall of Blessings, then to the Central Loggia of St. Peter's Basilica where he will impart the Urbi et Orbi blessing. Alongside the Pope will be Cardinal Renato Raffaele Martino and Cardinal Michael Czerny. Pope Francis sent Cardinal Czerny to Ukraine twice in recent weeks and to neighbouring countries that are welcoming refugees to show the closeness of the Church to the Ukrainian people suffering from the Russian military aggression. Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, Papal Almoner, is Ukraine during this Holy Week, where yesterday he delivered an ambulance donated by the Pope. Interviewed by Vatican media, the Cardinal Krajewski underlined that Francis wanted him "to live the Triduum with the Ukrainians...as presence is the first name of love."
Another sign of a 'return to normality' after the limitations due to the Covid will be that Easter St. Peter's Square will come alive with as many as 40 thousand flowers brought directly from the Netherlands. The traditional Dutch floral tribute offered to the Pope, halted during the time of the pandemic, goes back to the time of Pope John Paul II and is now in its 35th year. The flowers were blessed by the Bishop of Rotterdam before they were sent to Rome.
Vatican Media will offer the television/radio commentaries in the usual languages, but also in Ukrainian and Russian for the Way of the Cross, the Easter Vigil and the Urbi et Orbi. This service, along with the expansion of Vatican Radio's short-wave broadcasts to Ukraine and Russia a month ago, is intended to be a sign of Vatican Media's response to its primary mission to bring the hope of the Gospel through the Pope's Magisterium to the entire world, especially those who suffer.
The briefing concluded with the announcement that, as was the case during last year's Easter Triduum, Vatican News will offer through a YouTube channel a Sign Language translation service in collaboration with TV2000, coordinated by Sister Veronica Donatello, head of the Italian Bishops' Conference National Service for the Pastoral Care of People with Disabilities. In addition to this service in sign language (LIS), as of this year there is also a live subtitling service in Italian of the Holy Father's words as part of the "Nessuno Escluso" (Nobody excluded) project of the Dicastery for Communication aimed at making information on the Pope and the Church increasingly inclusive.