During Easter period some of the greatest and most suggestive events take place in Saint Peter’s Square and Basilica, officiated by the Pope.
This year Easter is Sunday, April 1st, but Easter period begins with Lent, at the end of Carnival time, on Ash Wednesday (February 14th in 2018), and the first Catholic Mass with Pope Francis is on Palm Sunday, at the beginning of the Holy Week.
The liturgical Schedule of the Pope this year includes a Pastoral visit to San Giovanni Rotondo, the town in Southern Italy where Saint Padre Pio lived and ministered, and a special Mass on April 8 with priests who served as “missionaries of mercy” during the Holy Year of Mercy 2015-2016.
The first big Catholic event is the Mass on Palm Sunday, on March 25th, the week before Easter, that commemorates the triumphant return of Jesus Christ to Jerusalem. The Pope presides over the Blessing of the Palms and the Procession, at 9.30am, and then the Holy Mass at 10.00am in Saint Peter’s Square. Devotees bring home blessed olive and palm sprigs, as symbols of peace.
At noon, the Pope celebrates the Angelus, as on every Sunday, from the window of his study overlooking Saint Peter’s Square, with a short speech followed by the Apostolic Blessing.
On March 29th, Holy Thursday begins the Holy Triduum (that means three days, in Latin), with the commemoration of the Last Supper of Jesus Christ and His institution of the priesthood. On this day Christ washed the feet of his Disciples, who would become the first priests. Echoing the story of Christ, priests and pastors all over Rome, including the Pope, wash the feet of their congregation, as the bible passage describing Christ’s washing of his disciples’ feet is read out loud. Pope Francis usually chooses the most marginalized groups of society for this special ritual, as refugees and detainees.
Good Friday, March 30th, is one of the holiest days of the year, commemorating the Passion of the Lord. Pope Francis leads a service at the Vatican Basilica at 5.00pm for the highest officers of the church, including cardinals and bishops. But the main event on Good Friday is the Via Crucis ceremony, at 9.00pm in the evening.
The Via Crucis sees Pope Francis lead a torchlit procession from the Colosseum to the Palatine Hill, stopping at the 14 Stations of the Cross along the way, commemorating the stages of Christ’s Passion, while a cross flames against the sky.
At the end of the Via Crucis, the Pope says a few words to the faithful and passes his blessing on the crowds. This is definitely one of the most dramatic and popular event of the Holy Week.
On Holy Saturday, March 31st, Pope Francis celebrates the Easter Vigil Mass, at 8.30pm in Saint Peter’s Basilica, an evening service waiting for the Resurrection of the Lord, balanced between mourning and hope. He blesses the ‘new fire’ in the atrium of Saint Peter’s Basilica and carries the Easter candle.
At 10am on Easter Sunday, April 1st, Pope Francis celebrates the Holy Mass in Saint Peter’s Square, where the faithful gather under his window. At the end of the Mass, at noon, he imparts the Urbi et Orbi (to the city and to the world) benediction.
Easter Monday, April 2nd in 2018, marks the culmination of the Holy Week. The Italian term for Easter Monday is Pasquetta, literally little Easter, and it’s a national holiday, usually spent amongst friends, with a day trip, an excursion, or a pic nic.
Other than these major events, Pope Francis will hold the General Audiences on Wednesdays at 10.00 am, and the Angelus on Sundays and Monday 2nd (Easter Monday) at noon.
No tickets are required for the Angelus and for the Way of the Cross at the Coliseum. For all the other celebrations, and for the General Audiences, you’ll have to reserve tickets in advance.
To reserve tickets, you can contact the Chancery offices of your local diocese, advisable if you’ll be with a large group, or consult the web site of the Prefecture of the Papal Household where you can find all the details. Tickets must be collected in the days before the event, at the ticket office in Saint Peter’s Square. Consider that a ticket does not guarantee a seat: seating and space are given on a first-come, first-serve basis, so you should plan to get there as early as possible.
However, if you decide to take part to one of these event at the last moment, even without a ticket attend at the events is possible, without a seat and not very near to where the Pope is, but it would be equally moving and exciting, definitely one in a life time experience.
Photo source: repubblica.it