Op­ti­mistic Easter mes­sage from Pope

Winnipeg Free Press - SundayXtra - - WORLD - By Ni­cole Win­field

VATICAN CITY — Pope Fran­cis con­cluded a bleak week in Europe with a mes­sage of hope dur­ing an Easter Vigil ser­vice Satur­day, say­ing dark­ness and fear must not pre­vail and “im­prison” the world with pes­simism.

Fran­cis’s call to hope on the eve of the most joy­ful cel­e­bra­tion in the Chris­tian calendar con­trasted sharply with his sharp con­dem­na­tion in re­cent days of the at­tacks in Bel­gium and else­where by Is­lamic ex­trem­ists.

Fran­cis en­tered the silent and dark­ened basil­ica with just a sin­gle can­dle guid­ing him at the start of the vigil. As he reached the al­tar, the basil­ica’s flood­lights flipped on in a sym­bolic show of light af­ter the dark­ness of Good Fri­day, which re­calls Je­sus’ death.

In his homily, Fran­cis said the hope Easter brings is a les­son for the Chris­tian faith­ful to cast aside the pes­simism that can “im­prison” peo­ple inside them­selves.

“We see and will con­tinue to see prob­lems both inside and out. They will al­ways be there,” he said. But he in­sisted: “Let us not al­low dark­ness and fear to dis­tract us and con­trol our hearts.”

“Today is the cel­e­bra­tion of our hope,” he said. “It is so nec­es­sary today.” The Easter mes­sage re­call­ing Christ’s res­ur­rec­tion, “awak­ens and res­ur­rects hope in hearts bur­dened by sad­ness,” he said.

The lengthy vigil ser­vice in­cluded a pa­pal bap­tism for 12 adults hail­ing from China, South Korea and other coun­tries around the world. Early today, Fran­cis will pre­side over Easter mass and of­fer his an­nual Easter bless­ing.

Dur­ing re­marks Fri­day at the Colos­seum cap­ping the Way of the Cross pro­ces­sion re-en­act­ing Je­sus’ cru­ci­fix­ion, Fran­cis de­nounced the “ter­ror­ist acts com­mit­ted by fol­low­ers of some re­li­gions which pro­fane the name of God and which use the holy name to jus­tify their un­prece­dented vi­o­lence.”

While the Pope was at the Colos­seum, his chief alms-giver was out on the streets of Rome giv­ing out sleep­ing bags to the home­less Fri­day night in a show of pa­pal sup­port for the city’s least for­tu­nate.

PHOTOS BY GRE­GO­RIO BOR­GIA / THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Pope Fran­cis holds the book of the Gospels as he cel­e­brates an Easter ser­vice.

A woman walks past Pope Fran­cis af­ter

be­ing bap­tized at the Easter ser­vice.

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