20 March 2016


CHIAVARI, Italy – In this week before Easter, religious festivities in Rome will be front and center on Italian television. The celebration officially start on Holy Thursday with the Mass of Chrism, (holy anointing oil).  This mass includes the reading of the Passion, which chronicles Jesus’ capture, suffering and death.
St. Peter's Basilica, at the Vatican
Later in the day, at the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, Pope Francis will wash the feet of 12 men, following the tradition of Jesus and his Apostles. Both masses mark Christ's founding of the priesthood at the Last Supper on the night before he died.

On Good Friday, the day of Christ’s crucifixion in 33AD, the Pope says mass in the Basilica of St. John Lateran (Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano). St. John’s was built by the Roman Emperor Constantine in the 4th century. Constantine was the first Roman Emperor to convert to Christianity, and St. John’s is the cathedral of the Bishop of Rome. It is known as Omnium urbis et orbis Ecclessarium Mater et Caput – the Cathedral of Rome and of the World.   
Via Crucis Procession, Rome
Friday evening the Pope leads a torch-lit procession from the Coliseum to Palatine Hill (Via Crucis Procession), and at pre-designated stops, the faithful recite the prayers for each of the Stations of the Cross.

The Easter Vigil mass at the Vatican’s St. Peter’s Basilica will start at 9PM on Saturday night. No lights will be lit. The Basilica will be shrouded in darkness until Pope Francis enters. He will be carrying a long, white Paschal, a special Easter candle decorated with gold leaf. 

From the single flame of the Paschal, twelve candles are lit and from those twelve, hundreds of other smaller candles will be lit, one by one, until the entire church is bathe in candlelight. As the candles are being lit, the Pope will proceed to the altar and begin Mass with:  “Brothers, on this most holy of nights, in which Jesus Christ our Lord passed from the depths of death to life, the Church, in every part of the world, calls on its children to keep watch and pray.” 
Pope Frances
He will be dressed in a gold robe, called a chasuble, with a white and gold stole around his neck. On his head will be a precious gold and white mitre encrusted with jewels. The mitre style was adopted from the Romans who wore hats that were very similar, and the chasuble is a variation of the robes worn throughout the Roman Empire.

The colors of the Pope’s chasuble and mitre are important as colors represent qualities such as virtue and holiness.  The gold color of the Pope’s chasuble symbolizes what is precious and valuable. It also symbolizes majesty, joy and celebration, and because of its brightness, metallic gold, like that found on the Pope’s miter, symbolizes the presence of God. 

Under the chasuble Pope Frances will wear a white robe, but all you will see of it V is a part of the collar around his neck and the edges of the cuffs under his sleeves. The color white has long symbolized purity, holiness and virtue, as well as respect and reverence. It is a color used by the Church for all high Holy Days and festivals.
Celebrating Easter at the Vatican 
Easter Sunday is joyful. The Vatican altar is filled with flowers in to celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus and his Ascension into Heaven. The Pope shares this special day with the thousands of faithful who gather in St. Peter’s Square to see him. He stands before the crowd and delivers his message of peace for the Urbi et Orbi (the city and the world).  After the Urbi et Orbi message, which is broadcast throughout the world, the Pope blesses the crowd.  

You can take part in all of the Easter events, and it is all free. You do need to make reservations however, including the Sabato Santo (Holy Saturday) mass at the Vatican. You’ll find information for all events, including Papal audiences at this web site: to http://www.papalaudience.org/papal-mass
A Keepsake from a Glorious Easter in Rome
Some tour operators have been known to charge large amounts of money for a Papal audience, but the truth is the Vatican does not charge for the Papal audiences. They are free. It’s easy to organize your own visit, you just have to do it well in advance, as tickets are limited. 

It's a good idea to stay until the end as that is when the Pope blesses everyone in the audience and those who can’t be there. And if you take medals and rosary beads and other religious items with you to the audience, you can give them as gifts knowing that they have received the Pope’s personal blessing.  Happy Easter

Copyright © 2016 Phyllis Macchioni

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