VATICAN CITY - Easter is a feast of hope, a celebration of
God's mercy and a call to pray for and assist all who suffer,
Pope Francis said before giving his solemn blessing "urbi et
orbi" (to the city and the world).
The risen Jesus "makes us sharers of his immortal life and
enables us to see with his eyes of love and compassion those
who hunger and thirst, strangers and prisoners, the
marginalized and the outcast, the victims of oppression and
violence," the pope said March 27 after celebrating Easter
Easter in Rome dawned bright and sunny; in St. Peter's
Square, the steps leading up to the basilica were turned into
an abundant garden with thousands of tulips, daffodils and
On Easter morning, the pope does not give a homily. Instead,
with hands clasped in prayer and head bowed, he led the tens
of thousands of people in the square in silent reflection.
After Mass, before giving his solemn blessing, Pope Francis
said Easter should give people the courage to "blaze trails
of reconciliation with God and with all our brothers and
Speaking about Christ's power over death and sin, the pope
prayed that the Lord would touch places in the globe scarred
by war, terrorism, poverty and environmental destruction.
"The risen Christ points out paths of hope to beloved Syria,
a country torn by a lengthy conflict, with its sad wake of
destruction, death, contempt for humanitarian law and the
breakdown of civil concord," the pope said. "To the power of
the risen Lord we entrust the talks now in course."
He prayed that the power of the Resurrection would "overcome
hardened hearts and promote a fruitful encounter of peoples
and cultures," particularly in Iraq, Yemen, Libya and the
"May the Lord of life also accompany efforts to attain a
definitive solution to the war in Ukraine, inspiring and
sustaining initiatives of humanitarian aid, including the
liberation of those who are detained," he prayed.
On Easter and throughout the Holy Week liturgies that
preceded it, Pope Francis showed special concern for the fate
of refugees and migrants fleeing violence and poverty and for
Christians facing persecution in the Middle East and other
parts of the world.
At Rome's Colosseum Good Friday, after presiding over the
Stations of the Cross, the pope offered a long meditation on
how Christ continues to be scorned, tortured and crucified in
suffering people around the world.
"O Cross of Christ," he said March 25, "today too we see you
raised up in our sisters and brothers killed, burned alive,
throats slit and decapitated by barbarous blades amid
"O Cross of Christ, today too we see you in the faces of
children, of women and people, worn out and fearful, who flee
from war and violence and who often only find death and many
Pilates who wash their hands," he said.
Two days later, celebrating the Resurrection, Pope Francis
said the Easter message "invites us not to forget those men
and women seeking a better future, an ever more numerous
throng of migrants and refugees -- including many children --
fleeing from war, hunger, poverty and social injustice. All
too often, these brothers and sisters of ours meet along the
way death or, in any event, rejection by those who could
offer them welcome and assistance."
Celebrating the Easter vigil March 26, Pope Francis said
Easter is a celebration of hope, one that must begin within
the hearts of each Christian.
"Christ wants to come and take us by the hand to bring us out
of our anguish," he said in his homily. "This is the first
stone to be moved aside this night: the lack of hope which
imprisons us within ourselves. May the Lord free us from this
trap, from being Christians without hope, who live as if the
Lord were not risen, as if our problems were the center of
"Today is the celebration of our hope, the celebration of
this truth: nothing and no one will ever be able to separate
us from his love," the pope said.
"The Lord is alive and wants to be sought among the living,"
Pope Francis said. "After having found him, each person is
sent out by him to announce the Easter message, to awaken and
resurrect hope in hearts burdened by sadness, in those who
struggle to find meaning in life. This is so necessary
During the Easter vigil, Pope Francis baptized eight women
and four men, including Yong-joon Lee, the South Korean
ambassador to Italy, who took the baptismal name, Stephen.
The ambassador's wife, taking the name Stella, was also
baptized. The other catechumens came from Italy, Albania,
Cameroon, India and China.
One by one, the catechumens approached the pope who asked
them if they wished to receive baptism. After responding,
"Yes, I do," they lowered their heads as the pope, using a
silver shell, poured water over their foreheads.
Confirming the 12 during the vigil, the pope asked the
cardinals, bishops and priests present to join him in raising
their hands and praying over the newly-baptized so that God
would send forth the Holy Spirit upon them.
At the beginning of the vigil, after blessing the Easter
fire, Pope Francis entered a darkened basilica, gently
illuminated by the light of the Easter candle.
In his homily, reflecting on the Easter account from the
Gospel of St. Luke, the pope noted how the disciples doubted
the testimony of the women returning from the empty tomb.
Peter, he said, was the first of the men to rise and run to
the tomb, choosing not to "succumb to the somber atmosphere
of those days, nor was he overwhelmed by his doubts."
"This marked the beginning of Peter's resurrection, the
resurrection of his heart. Without giving in to sadness or
darkness, he made room for hope; he allowed the light of God
to enter into his heart, without smothering it," the pope
Like Peter and the women, he added, Christians cannot
discover life by being "bereft of hope" and "imprisoned
within ourselves" but, instead, must allow Christ to bring
life and break open their tombs, sealed by "the stones of our
rancor and the boulders of our past."
While problems will always remain, he said, Jesus'
resurrection is a sure foundation of Christian hope and not
"mere optimism, nor a psychological attitude or desire to be
The Holy Spirit "does not remove evil with a magic wand. But
he pours into us the vitality of life, which is not the
absence of problems, but the certainty of being loved and
always forgiven by Christ, who for us has conquered sin,
death and fear," he said.
Christians are called to awaken the same hope in the hearts
of others, Pope Francis said. Without such witness the church
risks becoming "an international organization full of
followers and good rules, yet incapable of offering the hope
for which the world longs."