Easter is, without doubt, the most important event in the Catholic calendar and one of the busiest times of the year in Rome and Vatican, center of all Christendom.
Easter is a moveable feast, is not fixed in the civil calendar: the date varies from March 22nd to April 25th. This year Easter Sunday will be on March 27th.
The Lenten season begins with Ash Wednesday, on February 10th. On Ash Wednesday there’s a blessing of the ashes made from palm branches of the previous year’s Palm Sunday. Easter period continues with the forty-day period of fasting, prayer, and penance of Lent. The week before Easter is called Holy Week, beginning with Palm Sunday, the Sunday before Easter, continuing with the Holy Thursday, commemorating the Last Supper, the Good Friday, commemorating the crucifixion and death of Jesus, and the Easter Sunday and its eve, commemorating the Resurrection of the Lord.
Religious events in March celebrated by Pope Francis
Usually the Pope celebrates every major Mass and event in Easter period. To see detailed and updated information about the Holy Father activities, visit the Vatican website.
Complete calendar of events presided over by the Holy Father.
Here are the major events:
- March 4th: “24 hours for the Lord” – Penance Service celebrated by Pope Francis in Saint Peter’s Basilica for the Jubilee (5:00pm)
- March 20th: Palm Sunday (Blessing of the Palms, Procession and Holy Mass – Saint Peter’s Square, 9:30am). In the morning the Pope will give a Mass within St. Peter’s Square, where large crowds gather to commemorate the triumphant return of Jesus Christ to Jerusalem. Before the Holy Mass there will be the Blessing of the Palms and a Procession. Usually devotees bring home blessed olive and palm sprigs, as symbols of peace. At noon Pope Francis will attend the Angelus.
- March 24th: Holy Thursday – Chrism Mass (Vatican Basilica, 9:30am). Blessing of the holy oils in Saint Peter’s Basilica during a special Mass presided over by the Pope. A Mass is also said in the Basilica of Saint John Lateran, Rome’s Cathedral, usually at 5:30pm.
- March 25th: Good Friday – Lord’s Passion (Vatican Basilica, 5:00pm). The service that is held in Saint Peter is not a complete Mass, a sign of mourning over Christ’s death. Traditionally, the organ is silent from Holy Thursday until the Alleluia at the Easter Vigil, as are all bells or other instruments, the only music during this period being unaccompanied chant.
- March 25th: Good Friday – Stations of the Cross (Colosseum, 9:15pm). Pope Francis leads the Stations of the Cross, or Via Crucis, a procession that commemorates the fourteen stages of Christ’s Passion. A huge cross with burning torches lights the sky as the Stations of the Cross are described in several languages. At the end, the Pope gives a blessing.
- March 26th: Easter Vigil in the Holy Night – Resurrection of the Lord (Vatican Basilica, 8:30pm). The Pope usually celebrates this Mass in the late evening in Saint Peter’s Basilica. During this service adult converted to Catholicism are officially received into the Church.
- March 27th: Easter Sunday, Mass of the Day – Resurrection of the Lord (Saint Peter’s Square, 10:15am). Mass celebrated in the morning will be the most followed one. At noon the Pope delivers the blessing known as the Urbi et Orbi (to the City and to the World) in the central loggia of the Vatican Basilica.
- March 28th: Easter Monday. Angelus in Saint Peter’s Square at noon.
No tickets are required for the Angelus and for the Way of the Cross at the Coliseum. For all the other celebrations, you’ll have to reserve tickets, that are free of charge. Consult the web site of the Prefecture of the Papal Household to know how to reserve tickets.
Remember that tickets to a Papal Mass does not guarantee a seat or even a place. Seating and space is given on a first-come, first-serve basis. You should plan to get there as early as you can. However, even without a ticket you can still attend at the event, only not very near to where the Pope is.
What’s closed and when
Easter Sunday and Easter Monday (Pasquetta or Lunedì dell’Angelo) are both celebrated as holidays in Italy: schools, shops, banks and some restaurants are closed those days.
Main tourist sites such as the Coliseum, the Roman Forum, Castel Sant’Angelo, Capitoline Museums are open and keep normal hours on Sunday 27th and Monday 28th. The Coliseum will close early on Good Friday to prepare for the Pope’s procession. Galleria Borghese will be open on Easter Sunday and closed on Monday 28th and Tuesday 29th. Vatican Museums (and the Sistine Chapel), will be closed on March 19th, March 27th (Easter Sunday) and March 28th (Easter Monday).