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U.S. seminarian who carried cross at pope’s Easter Mass dies in Rome

April 4th, 2018 Posted in National News Tags:


Catholic News Service

ROME — Friends and fans called him a “gentle giant,” a faithful “prayer warrior” and a Clark Kent whose superman power was helping people grow in holiness and faith.

“I believe I truly knew a saint,” one friend wrote.

The written comments were among the hundreds of condolence messages, prayers and stories submitted to an “in memoriam” page on the RegnumChristi.org website for Legionary of Christ Brother Anthony Freeman of Houston.

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Bishop W. Francis Malooly’s 2018 Easter greeting

March 29th, 2018 Posted in Featured, Our Diocese Tags: ,


For the secular world, Easter is all about brightly colored eggs and chocolate bunnies. For us, Easter represents the fulfillment of the Good News of the Gospel — Jesus, who was crucified, is risen!
Jesus died on the cross for our sins, and God the Father raised Him and made Him the Lord of life and death. In Jesus, love has triumphed over hatred, mercy over cruelty, forgiveness over anger, truth over deception, and life over death.
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Some West Bank Christians don’t get Easter permits to enter Jerusalem


Catholic News Service

BEIT JALLA, West Bank — Nicola Sansour’s voice had a tinge of sadness as he recounted how his family planned to celebrate Easter this year. They planned to attend Holy Week services at Beit Jalla’s Annunciation Parish, purchase new clothes for the three small children, decorate eggs and attend the parish Easter egg hunt. His wife, Nivine, 34, would gather with his mother and sisters to make the traditional stuffed semolina “mamoul” Easter cookies.

Nicola Sansour and his wife, Nivine, pose with two of their children, Elia, 2, and Rivana, 5, at their home in Beit Jalla, West Bank, March 24. Nivine Sansour is holding her permit from the Israelis to travel to Jerusalem for Holy Week, but Nicola Sansour did not receive Israeli permission to travel to Jerusalem. (CNS photo/Debbie Hill)

Nicola Sansour and his wife, Nivine, pose with two of their children, Elia, 2, and Rivana, 5, at their home in Beit Jalla, West Bank, March 24. Nivine Sansour is holding her permit from the Israelis to travel to Jerusalem for Holy Week, but Nicola Sansour did not receive Israeli permission to travel to Jerusalem. (CNS photo/Debbie Hill)

But this would be another year in which he and his family would not be able to celebrate the holiday with a visit to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, a mere three miles from his home.

Christian Palestinians need a special Israeli entry permit to enter Jerusalem for the holiday, and Nivine Sansour received the entry permit, but her husband did not.

As a university student during the first Palestinian uprising in the late 1980s, Nicola Sansour took part in anti-Israeli demonstrations and was stopped by Israeli soldiers but never arrested. Perhaps, he said, that may be the black spot on his record that prevents him from being giving the permit. But 20 years have passed since then; he has received a university degree and become a teacher.

He has sent written appeals to the Israeli Civil Administration but has not received a response as to why they will not issue him a permit.

“It is important for us as Christians here to visit the Church of the Holy Sepulcher on these very holy days. And I can’t go,” he said. “There is only one checkpoint I have to cross. I feel like I am in a big jail. Many times I just sit, and think that they are taking something away from me. “

“I am a peaceful person. They never told me (why I can’t get a permit),” he added.

“We need to be able to go to Jerusalem every day,” said Nivine Sansour. “But here we are in a prison, and only on the holidays are we free.”

Of the 350 families in their parish, some 30 families are in the same situation as they are, Nicola Sansour noted, with the fathers being denied the permit. In addition, 10 unmarried men also did not receive permits. His brother was among those denied a permit.

Yusef Daher, executive secretary of the Jerusalem Interchurch Center, earlier said there were many similar cases of some members of Christian families not receiving permits throughout the West Bank, but the exact numbers would not be known until the end of the holiday season.

The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem website said 847 of the 890 Christian Gazans who had requested permits for the holiday received them, for some, 95 percent of the requests.

“The most impressive thing was that the majority of young Christians got the permit. Some of them didn’t leave Gaza since eight years. We praise the Lord for this grace,” Father Mario de Silva, parish priest, was quoted as saying.

Israel maintains that the system of permits and checkpoints, including the separation barrier that surrounds Bethlehem and the adjacent villages of Beit Jalla and Beit Sahour, are needed for security reasons following the second intifada, when Palestinian suicide bombers from the West Bank carried out deadly attacks in Israeli cities, many of them in Jerusalem which borders Bethlehem.

According to the Israeli Foreign Ministry, some 34 Israelis have been killed in terrorist attacks and 404 people injured, including four Palestinians, in the wave of violence that began last autumn. There have been 331 stabbings and other attacks and attempted attacks, according to their statistics. According to Defense for Children International, some 180 Palestinians were killed and more than 15,000 injured from September through February. Some of the injured and killed included attackers.

Last year, Nicola Sansour received a permit to travel to Jerusalem for Christmas, but Nivine Sansour’s permit got lost in the bureaucracy, and she could not go.

Nicola Sansour went alone and spent the day meandering around the streets of the Old City before he returned home. But it was lonely without his family, he said.

“When I go to Jerusalem, I feel the past. I feel what it was like in the past, and Jerusalem was a very, very big city,” said Nicola Sansour, who said he enjoys watching movies about Jerusalem’s Crusader history. “I would like to introduce my children to the church (of the Holy Sepulcher). I need them to feel the moment. To be able to take all my children to the church during Easter would be like a dream.”

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Reconcile with God, resurrect hope in others, pope urges at Easter


Catholic News Service

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).

Pope Francis uses incense to reverence an icon of the risen Jesus at the beginning of Easter Mass in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican March 27. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis uses incense to reverence an icon of the risen Jesus at the beginning of Easter Mass in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican March 27. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

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 morning Mass.

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 flowering bushes.

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 sisters.”

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 Holy Land.

“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 cowardly silence.”

“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 our lives.

“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 today.”

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 said.

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 courageous.”

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.”

Junno Arocho Esteves also contributed to this story.

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Bishop Malooly’s Holy Week and Easter schedule

March 23rd, 2016 Posted in Uncategorized Tags: , ,


The following is Bishop Malooly’s schedule at Masses and events during Holy Week and the celebration of Easter this year.

On Holy Thursday, March 24, Bishop Malooly will celebrate the Mass of the Lord’s Supper at 7 p.m. in the Cathedral of St. Peter. At this Mass commemorating the Last Supper, the bishop will wash the feet of 12 people, recreating what Jesus did to his Apostles as reported in the Gospel of St. John.

At noon on Good Friday, March 25, Bishop Malooly will preside over the 21st Outdoor Stations of the Cross in the Garden of Eternal Life at the historic Cathedral Cemetery in Wilmington. In case of inclement weather, the Stations will be held in the Queen of the Apostles Chapel on the cemetery grounds.  At 3 p.m., he will preside at the Celebration of the Passion of the Lord at the Cathedral of St. Peter in Wilmington.

Bishop Malooly will celebrate the 8 p.m. Easter Vigil Mass at St. Elizabeth Church in Wilmington. The liturgy will include the blessing of fire, water and the Easter candle along with the baptism, confirmation and first Communion of people who are joining the Catholic Church.

On Easter Sunday, March 27, Bishop Malooly will celebrate the Resurrection   at the 11 a.m. Mass in the Cathedral of St. Peter.

All Masses and services are open to the public and all are cordially invited. All Catholics are invited to observe Holy Week and Easter at their local parishes or at a Mass with the bishop.


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Christians chafe at Israeli restrictions for Holy Week, Easter in Jerusalem


Catholic News Service

JERUSALEM — Israeli restrictions on reaching the Church of the Holy Sepulcher for Holy Week and Easter are part of the current Israeli government’s policy of making Jerusalem an exclusively Jewish city, said Yusef Daher, secretary-general of the Jerusalem Interchurch Center.

Faithful hold candles in Jerusalem's Church of the Holy Sepulcher in this April 19, 2014, file photo. (CNS photo/Oliver

Faithful hold candles in Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulcher in this April 19, 2014, file photo. (CNS photo/Oliver Weiken/EPA)

Describing the network of Israeli police barriers that disrupt the flow and number of people able to reach the church for Good Friday services and the Orthodox Holy Fire ceremony at the Easter Vigil, Daher acknowledged that although the single entrance and exit to the church cause a potential hazard in case of a fire, there had been no problem in more than a century.

“This (restrictions) did not happen 10 years ago,” he said.

The Holy Fire ceremony involves the sharing of fire which, according to tradition, is brought forth miraculously from the tomb of Jesus by the Greek Orthodox and Armenian patriarchs. The first flames are passed from person to person by torches to bundles of candles. Eventually fire from the ceremony is sent to the various parishes of the Holy Land.

The ceremony has become a point of contention over the past 10 years between the Israeli police and local Christians.

Police say the single exit into a plaza makes the ceremony a high risk for visitors if a fire breaks out. In 1808, a fire severely damaged the dome of the Rotunda, and dozens of pilgrims were trampled to death, while in the mid-1800s a fire during the Holy Fire Ceremony reportedly also killed hundreds of pilgrims.

Palestinian Christians living in the West Bank and Gaza also need special permits in order to attend Holy Week and Easter ceremonies. Israel grants the permits at the last minute, and then often does not grant enough for everyone in the family to travel.

At a March 17 media briefing in Jerusalem’s Old City, Father Jamal Khader, rector of the Latin Patriarchate Seminary in Beit Jalla, West Bank, compared the restrictions to the celebration of Holy Week, which reminds Christians that Easter is coming.

“It (reminds us) that this can’t go on forever, there is an end; like with the Gospel there is a resurrection of light and of happiness,” he said.

The Status Quo, the 1852 agreement that preserved the division of ownership and responsibilities of various Christian holy sites, governs the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, which is shared by Catholics, Armenians and Greek, Ethiopian, Syriac and Coptic Orthodox.

While the need for more exits has been acknowledged, because of the desire to maintain the Status Quo, church officials have been unable to reach an agreement on how do so. Israel has said it will refrain from taking unilateral action in order to avoid provoking church protests.

“Yes, there are some security issues (in terms of fire exits),” Daher said. “Christians say that on a holy day God will not allow anything dangerous to happen. Secular people say that is nonsense and something has to be done, but closing the plaza is not (the solution).”

There are about 8,000 Christians living in Jerusalem, he said, and 50,000 Christians in the West Bank, with fewer than 2,000 in Gaza.

Over the past two years the Jewish Passover and Easter holiday have coincided and while the Jews entering the Old City have had complete freedom of movement, the movement of Christians celebrating Good Friday and the Orthodox Holy Fire ceremony have been restricted by the barriers, Daher said.

Meanwhile, he said, as Palm Sunday approaches, West Bank and Gaza Palestinians had not yet received their permits, which made it difficult for West Bank parishes to plan for the transportation to Jerusalem in order to participate in the traditional procession into Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives, following the path Jesus is thought to have taken, said Khader. He said he hoped permits would still be issued.

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White House Easter prayer breakfast welcomes cross-section of Christians


Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — Quoting Pope Francis and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. at the White House Easter Prayer Breakfast, President Barack Obama observed that the celebration of Easter puts other concerns into context.

“With humility and with awe, we give thanks to the extraordinary sacrifice of Jesus Christ, our savior,” Obama said at the annual event in the East Room. “We reflect on the brutal pain that he suffered, the scorn that he absorbed, the sins that he bore, this extraordinary gift of salvation that he gave to us. And we try, as best we can, to comprehend the darkness that he endured so that we might receive God’s light.”

Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington, right, talks to Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, and the Rev. Jim Wallis, president of Sojourners, during an Easter prayer breakfast in the East Room of the White House in Washington April 7. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)

Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington, right, talks to Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, and the Rev. Jim Wallis, president of Sojourners, during an Easter prayer breakfast in the East Room of the White House in Washington April 7. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)

Speaking to an audience of Christian religious leaders from around the country, Obama added that “even as we grapple with the sheer enormity of Jesus’ sacrifice, on Easter we can’t lose sight of the fact that the story didn’t end on Friday. The story keeps on going. On Sunday comes the glorious Resurrection of our savior.”

Noting that Pope Francis would be visiting Washington later this year, Obama went on to quote him, encouraging people to seek peace, serve the marginalized and be good stewards of God’s creation.

“He says that we should strive ‘to see the Lord in every excluded person who is thirsty, hungry, naked; to see the Lord present even in those who have lost their faith … imprisoned, sick, unemployed, persecuted; to see the Lord in the leper — whether in body or soul — who encounters discrimination.’”

Obama observed that this was how Jesus lived and loved. “Embracing those who were different; serving the marginalized; humbling himself to the last,” and that “this is the example that we are called to follow — to love him with all our hearts and mind and soul, and to love our neighbors — all of our neighbors — as ourselves.”

Gospel and pop singer Amy Grant performed her hit “Thy Word,” based upon phrases from Psalm 119, and the Howard Gospel Choir of Washington’s Howard University also sang.

Among the Catholic participants spotted in the room were Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington; Sister Carol Keehan, a Daughter of Charity who is president and CEO of the Catholic Health Association; Msgr. Ronny Jenkins, general secretary of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops; Jesuit Father Tom Reese, a columnist for the National Catholic Reporter; and White House staffers that included Chief of Staff Denis McDonough.

Other prominent faith leaders attending included the Rev. Jim Wallis, founder of Sojourners; Melissa Rogers, head of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, and her predecessor in the post, Joshua DuBois; the Rev. Al Sharpton; Bishop Vashti McKenzie, presiding prelate of the 13th Episcopal District of the African Methodist Episcopal Church; the Rev. Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals; and retired Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson.

Scripture readings and prayers were offered by an ecumenical assortment: Dominican Sister Donna Markham, incoming president of Catholic Charities USA, read one passage, while Coptic Orthodox Father Anthony Messeh of St. Timothy and St. Athanasius Church in Arlington, Virginia, read another. Formal prayers were offered by the Rev. Amy K. Butler of the Riverside Church in New York, and the Rev. Justin B. Fung of the District Church in Washington, while the Rev. Ann Lightner-Fuller of Mount Calvary African Methodist Episcopal Church in Towson, Maryland, provided a closing reflection.

In comments that started with jokes about his backyard being overrun the day before with thousands of participants in the Easter Egg Roll, and about getting teary-eyed as he contemplates his daughters growing up, Obama began to, as he put it, veer off track from the tone of joy and humility of the event. He said that he reflects on the Christian obligation to love, but that “sometimes when I listen to less than loving expressions by Christians, I get concerned. But that’s a topic for another day.”

“Where there is injustice we defend the oppressed,” he said, “where there is disagreement, we treat each other with compassion and respect. Where there are differences, we find strength in our common humanity, knowing that we are all children of God.”

In introducing Obama, Vice President Joe Biden also referenced Pope Francis’ words, quoting from the pontiff’s homily at the Easter vigil, saying “we cannot live Easter without entering into mystery. To enter into mystery means the ability to wonder, to contemplate, the ability to listen to the silence and hear the tiny whisper amid the great silence by which God speaks to us.”

Biden, a Catholic, added that he thinks that’s “who we are as Christians, and quite frankly, I think that’s who we are as Americans. We’re constantly renewed as a people and as individuals by our ability to enter into the mystery. We live our faith when we instill in our children the ability to wonder, to contemplate, and to listen to that tiny whisper amid the great silence. We live our faith when we nurture the hope and possibilities that have always defined us as a country. We live Easter — and to live Easter is to live with the constant notion that we can always do better. We can always do better.”


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Bishop Malooly’s Easter Message

April 4th, 2015 Posted in Featured Tags: , ,


Go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uhMyd2KpEN4 to see Bishop Malooly’s Easter Message for 2015.



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Easter proclaims that love gives life, pope says; share it with others


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis urged Christians to remember how they first encountered Christ and to share his love and mercy with others, especially through acts of caring and sharing.

Proclaiming the good news of Jesus’ resurrection means giving concrete witness “to unconditional and faithful love,” he said April 20 before solemnly giving his blessing “urbi et orbi” (to the city and the world).

Celebrating the second Easter of his pontificate, the pope told at least 150,000 people gathered in St. Peter’s Square and on adjacent streets that evangelization “is about leaving ourselves behind and encountering others, being close to those crushed by life’s troubles, sharing with the needy, standing at the side of the sick, elderly and the outcast.”

Pope Francis prepares to deliver his Easter blessing “urbi et orbi” (to the city and the world) from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican April 20. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Whatever is going on in one’s life, he said from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica, Jesus’ victory over sin and death demonstrates that “love is more powerful, love gives life, love makes hope blossom in the wilderness.”

Overlooking the square where he had just celebrated Easter morning Mass surrounded by hundreds of flowering trees and bushes and thousands of daffodils, tulips and roses, Pope Francis said Christians proclaim to the world that “Jesus, love incarnate, died on the cross for our sins, but God the father raised him and made him the Lord of life and death.”

In his Easter message, the pope prayed that the risen Lord would “help us to overcome the scourge of hunger, aggravated by conflicts and by the immense wastefulness for which we are often responsible.” He also prayed that Christians would be given the strength “to protect the vulnerable, especially children, women and the elderly, who are at times exploited and abandoned.”

The pope offered special prayers for those facing serious difficulties and threats in various parts of the world: for victims of the Ebola epidemic in West Africa; the victims of kidnapping; migrants and refugees; and for the victims of war and conflict in Syria, Iraq, Central African Republic, Nigeria, South Sudan and Venezuela.

Celebrating the fact that in 2014 Easter fell on the same day on the Gregorian calendar used in the West and on the Julian calendar used by many Orthodox and Eastern Catholics, the pope’s Easter morning Mass included a Byzantine choir singing “stichi” and “stichira,” hymns that in ancient times were sung in the presence of the bishop of Rome on Easter.

In his “urbi et orbi” message, the pope offered special prayers for peace in Ukraine, a country with various Orthodox, Eastern Catholic and Latin-rite Catholic communities. The pope prayed that all sides in the current political tensions would avoid violence and, “in a spirit of unity and dialogue, chart a path for the country’s future.”

The pope’s celebration of Easter got underway the night before in a packed St. Peter’s Basilica.

His Easter Vigil began with the lighting of the fire and Easter candle in the atrium of the basilica; walking behind the Easter candle and carrying a candle of his own, Pope Francis entered the darkened basilica. In the silence and solemnity of the moment, very few pilgrims and tourists disturbed the atmosphere with their camera flashes.

Brian Baker, a deacon and seminarian from the Archdiocese of Atlanta, sang the Exultet — the poetic hymn of praise calling the whole world to rejoice at the resurrection of Christ.

As the bells of St. Peter’s pealed the joy of the Resurrection through the night, torrential rains beat down on Rome.

In his homily Pope Francis, who often tells people to look up the date of their baptism and commemorate it each year, urged people to remember and reflect on the first moment they really recall having encountered Jesus.

Referring to the Easter account from the Gospel of St. Matthew, Pope Francis noted how the women who went to Jesus’ tomb were told first by the angel and then by the risen Lord to await him in Galilee and tell the disciples to go as well.

“After the death of the Master, the disciples had scattered; their faith had been utterly shaken, everything seemed over,” the pope said. Yet they were told to go back to Galilee, the place they first met Jesus.

Returning to Galilee, he said, means re-reading everything – “Jesus’ preaching, his miracles, the new community, the excitement and the defections, even the betrayal — to re-read everything starting from the end, which is a new beginning,” one that begins with Jesus’ “supreme act of love” in dying for humanity’s sin.

Departing repeatedly from his prepared text, Pope Francis kept telling people: “Have no fear. Do not be afraid. Have the courage to open your hearts” to the Lord’s love.

Returning to Galilee, he said, “means treasuring in my heart the living memory” of “the moment when his eyes met mine.”

“Where is my Galilee,” the pope urged people to ask themselves.”Have I forgotten it? Have I gone off on roads and paths which made me forget it?”

Pope Francis encouraged people to ask the Lord’s help in remembering and in telling the Lord, “I want to return there to encounter you and to let myself be embraced by your mercy.”

Pope Francis baptized 10 people at the Easter Vigil; they ranged from a 7-year-old Italian boy to a 58-year-old Vietnamese woman. Four other Italians and one person each from Senegal, Lebanon, France and Belarus also were baptized. As each stepped forward, the pope asked if they wanted to be baptized and waited for their response; he asked one man twice because his response had not been clear. The catechumens bent over the baptismal font and the pope, putting one hand on their heads, used a deep silver shell to pour water over their foreheads.

The pope confirmed the 10 during the liturgy, anointing them with oil and giving each a kiss on the cheek. And, although Pope Francis does not usually distribute Communion at large public Masses, he made an exception for the 10 new Catholics, who received their first Communion during the vigil.

Contributing to this story was Carol Glatz at the Vatican.


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