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Ushering in Easter, Pope says Holy Saturday means hope in our ‘darkest hour’ [In-Depth]
Pope Francis presides over a solemn Easter vigil ceremony in St. Peter's Basilica empty of the faithful following Italy’s ban on gatherings to contain coronavirus contagion, at the Vatican, Saturday, April 11, 2020. (Credit: Remo Casilli/Pool Photo via AP)
During his Saturday Easter Vigil Mass, Pope Francis likened the despair of Jesus’s followers after his death to that experienced by many due to the coronavirus, saying the Resurrection is a call to let go of fear and embrace hope.
ROME — Celebrating a Vigil Mass initiating the Catholic Church’s great feast of Easter, when Christians believe Christ rose from the dead, Pope Francis compared the silence of the tomb on Holy Saturday to what the world is experiencing due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
Speaking to viewers tuning into his livestreamed Easter Vigil Mass, Pope Francis noted that during events Holy Week Saturday is often ignored, as most are eager to pass from the commemoration of Jesus’s death Friday to that of his resurrection on Sunday.
However, this year, Francis said the silence of the tomb on Saturday and the despair of the disciples after Jesus’s death is like the present global health crisis.
Pointing to the women in the day’s Gospel reading who are preparing oils to anoint Jesus’s body at the tomb, Francis said that “They, like us, had before their eyes the drama of suffering, of an unexpected tragedy that happened all too suddenly.”
“They had seen death and it weighed on their hearts,” he said. “Pain was mixed with fear: would they suffer the same fate as the Master? Then too there was fear about the future and all that would need to be rebuilt.”
“For them, as for us, it was the darkest hour,” he said. Yet when they arrived at the tomb and found it already opened, the angel who appeared told them “do not be afraid.”
“This is the message of hope,” the pope said, adding that it is not just for the women in the Gospel, but “It is addressed to us, today. These are the words that God repeats to us this very night.”
With Jesus’s rising from the dead, Christians, “acquire a fundamental right that can never be taken away from us: the right to hope,” he said, insisting that it is not “mere optimism,” a “pat on the back” or encouragement, but is rather “a new and living hope that comes from God.”
Jesus wants his followers to bring hope others in their everyday lives, he said, noting that Jesus sends his disciples to Galilee, which was not only far away, but home to people of different religions.
“What does this tell us? That the message of hope should not be confined to our sacred places, but should be brought to everyone,” he said, insisting that “everyone is in need of reassurance, and if we, who have touched ‘the Word of life’ do not give it, who will?”
“How beautiful it is to be Christians who offer consolation, who bear the burdens of others and who offer encouragement,” the pope said, urging Christians to be “messengers of life in a time of death!”
“Let us silence the cries of death, no more wars! May we stop the production and trade of weapons, since we need bread, not guns. Let the abortion and killing of innocent lives end,” he said, and prayed that those who live in abundance would be willing to shar with those who can’t afford the bare necessities.
“Today, as pilgrims in search of hope, we cling to you, Risen Jesus,” he said. “We turn our backs on death and open our hearts to you, for you are Life itself.”