By Junno Arocho Esteves
VATICAN CITY, (Catholic News Service) – The joy of Christ’s resurrection is needed now more than ever in a time when war in Ukraine and other parts of the world makes the hope for peace seem like an illusion, Pope Francis said before giving his Easter blessing.
Like the disciples who were at first doubtful of Jesus rising from the dead, “our eyes, too, are incredulous on this Easter of war,” the pope said as he prepared April 17 to give his Easter blessing “urbi et orbi” (“to the city and the world”).
“We have seen all too much blood, all too much violence. Our hearts, too, have been filled with fear and anguish, as so many of our brothers and sisters have had to lock themselves away in order to be safe from bombing,” he said.
Nevertheless, Christ’s victory over death “is not an illusion” and the world needs “the crucified and risen Lord so that we can believe in the victory of love, and hope for reconciliation.”
Earlier in the day, the Vatican said an estimated 55,000 pilgrims gathered in St Peter’s Square in the first outdoor Easter Mass since the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020. A vast floral arrangement adorned the steps leading to the basilica, highlighting the festive atmosphere.
According to Vatican News, the display of flowers, imported from the Netherlands, featured more than 40,000 individual flowers, plants and trees, including tulips, daffodils, and birch trees that accented the joyful celebration of Christ’s resurrection.
Pope Francis did not deliver a homily during the Mass; instead, a hushed silence filled the packed square for several minutes of quiet, prayerful reflection.
As Mass progressed, tens of thousands more began lining the streets outside the square. The Vatican said police estimated 100,000 people had gathered for the post-Mass blessing.
Before the blessing, the pope, standing on the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica, addressed the crowd. However, due to knee problems that have caused him difficulty walking and standing for long periods of time, the pope sat and spoke for part of his address.
In his address, the pope said the joyous announcement of Jesus’ resurrection is sorely needed “at the end of a Lent that has seemed endless.”
“We emerged from two years of pandemic, which took a heavy toll,” the pope said. “It was time to come out of the tunnel together, hand in hand, pooling our strengths and resources.”
However, the pope said that instead of unity, the world has shown that “we still have within us the spirit of Cain, who saw Abel not as a brother, but as a rival, and thought about how to eliminate him.”
Only Christ, he added, who bears the wounds inflicted “upon him by our sins, by our hardness of heart, by our fratricidal hatred” has the right “to speak to us of peace.”
“The wounds on the body of the risen Jesus are the sign of the battle he fought and won for us, won with the weapons of love, so that we might have peace and remain in peace,” the pope said.
Continue reading his address here.