In St. Peter’s Square, the popemobile advances behind the long procession of faithful and cardinals, each carrying with them a large olive branch. It’s Palm Sunday Mass, the first celebration of Holy Week, which should last until Easter, and Francis, less than 24 hours after leaving the hospital, has just arrived at the foot of the obelisk.
During the mass, with a marked face and a tired voice, François developed, on Sunday April 2, in front of the 30,000 faithful gathered under the slightly veiled sun which overhung the square, a meditation on the Passion of Christ. God, Francis said, “wants us to take care of the brothers and sisters who are most like him, in extreme situations of pain and loneliness.”
The pope encouraged those who listened to him to take care of the “abandoned Christs” who populate our societies today. Among them, Francis cited the “abandoned peoples”, the “poor whose eyes we do not have the courage to meet”, the “migrants who no longer have faces but are numbers”, but also prisoners, the “unborn”, the elderly left alone, and, more generally, all those who are “labeled as a problem”.
For Francois,« Jesus forsaken asks us to have eyes and a heart for abandoned people”, and everyone must be able to “recognize the Lord who cries out in them”.
This abandonment is comparable, Francis insisted, to that of Christ on the cross, deprived of everyone’s support. On the cross, Jesus “sees heaven closed, he experiences the bitter frontier of life, the shipwreck of existence, the collapse of all certainty”.
“So many people need our closeness, so many abandoned people. I too need Jesus to caress me,” added the pope, leaving his text. “I thank you for your prayers these past few days,” he said at the end of the celebration, alluding to his hospitalization.
No program relief
The pope appeared tired during the mass, which he attended from start to finish. Without ever using a wheelchair, the pope moved around the square in a popemobile, and used a cane to walk to the white chair that had been set up for him in front of the altar erected in the square.
He left Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, vice-dean of the College of Cardinals, to celebrate the Eucharist during the second part of the celebration. A device that had already been planned before the hospitalization of Francis, insisted the Vatican.
But François wanted to be present and not to lighten his program, not even the popemobile tour of the square, during which he greeted the faithful for about fifteen minutes. After having, as usual for more than a year now, invited Catholics to pray for peace in Ukraine, on this day when, he insisted, the “olive branches” waved at mass, are “symbols of the peace of Christ”.
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