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PHOTOS: Pope Francis washes the feet of inmates at women’s prison in Rome

Pope Francis kisses the foot of one of the 12 women whose feet he washed at the Rebibbia Women’s Prison in Rome on Holy Thursday, March 28, 2024. / Credit: Vatican Media

CNA Staff, Mar 28, 2024 / 14:30 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis on Thursday washed the feet of 12 prisoners at a prison facility in Rome, with the pontiff continuing a regular tradition of holding the Mass of the Lord’s Supper at local penitentiaries.

The Holy Father told female inmates at the Rebibbia correctional facility, located about six miles from Vatican City, that Jesus “never tires of forgiving” but rather “we are the ones who get tired of asking for forgiveness.”

Pope Francis speaks during a Mass at the Rebibbia Women’s Prison in Rome on Holy Thursday, March 28, 2024. Credit: Vatican Media
Pope Francis speaks during a Mass at the Rebibbia Women’s Prison in Rome on Holy Thursday, March 28, 2024. Credit: Vatican Media

“We all have our small or big failures — everyone has their own story. But the Lord always awaits us, with his arms open, and never tires of forgiving,” the Holy Father said, according to Vatican News.

Pope Francis presides over a Mass at the Rebibbia Women’s Prison in Rome on Holy Thursday, March 28, 2024. Credit: Vatican Media
Pope Francis presides over a Mass at the Rebibbia Women’s Prison in Rome on Holy Thursday, March 28, 2024. Credit: Vatican Media

The pope during the Mass washed the feet of 12 of the female prisoners present. The dozen inmates were of “different nationalities,” the Vatican said.

Pope Francis washes the feet of 12 women at the Rebibbia Women’s Prison in Rome on Holy Thursday, March 28, 2024. Credit: Vatican Media
Pope Francis washes the feet of 12 women at the Rebibbia Women’s Prison in Rome on Holy Thursday, March 28, 2024. Credit: Vatican Media

The pope subsequently “met with the inmates and staff of the penitentiary” and received several gifts including products from the prison complex’s farm.

Pope Francis meets with the inmates and staff of the penitentiary Rebibbia Women’s Prison in Rome on Holy Thursday, March 28, 2024. Credit: Vatican Media
Pope Francis meets with the inmates and staff of the penitentiary Rebibbia Women’s Prison in Rome on Holy Thursday, March 28, 2024. Credit: Vatican Media

In years past, Francis has traveled to prisons and other facilities in and around Rome to wash the feet of marginalized individuals.

In 2023 he washed the feet of 12 young men and women at the Casal del Marmo juvenile detention center on Rome’s outskirts.

Pope Francis meets with the inmates and staff of the penitentiary Rebibbia Women’s Prison in Rome on Holy Thursday, March 28, 2024. Credit: Vatican Media
Pope Francis meets with the inmates and staff of the penitentiary Rebibbia Women’s Prison in Rome on Holy Thursday, March 28, 2024. Credit: Vatican Media

Francis instituted the custom shortly after the start of his papacy. After visiting the Casal del Marmo youth detention center in 2013, he presided at Holy Thursday Masses at a center for the disabled in 2014, the Rebibbia New Complex Prison in 2015, a center for asylum seekers in 2016, Paliano prison in 2017, Rome’s historic Regina Coeli prison in 2018, and Velletri men’s prison in 2019.

The Holy Father skipped the tradition in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pope Francis meets with the inmates and staff of the penitentiary Rebibbia Women’s Prison in Rome on Holy Thursday, March 28, 2024. Credit: Vatican Media
Pope Francis meets with the inmates and staff of the penitentiary Rebibbia Women’s Prison in Rome on Holy Thursday, March 28, 2024. Credit: Vatican Media

On Holy Thursday, Pope Francis asks priests to weep over their sins

Pope Francis presides at the Vatican's chrism Mass on Holy Thursday, March 28, 2024. / Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Vatican City, Mar 28, 2024 / 09:30 am (CNA).

On Holy Thursday, Pope Francis presided over a chrism Mass at which more than 1,880 priests, bishops, and cardinals renewed the promises made at their ordinations.

Pope Francis encouraged the priests to turn their gaze upon the crucified Lord and to weep over their sins in repentance, saying that tears can “purify and heal the heart.”

“Once we recognize our sin, our hearts can be opened to the working of the Holy Spirit, the source of living water that wells up within us and brings tears to our eyes,” Francis said on March 28.

Pope Francis speaks at the Vatican's chrism Mass on Holy Thursday, March 28, 2024. Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA
Pope Francis speaks at the Vatican's chrism Mass on Holy Thursday, March 28, 2024. Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA

“The Lord seeks, especially in those consecrated to him, men and women who weep for the sins of the Church and the world and become intercessors on behalf of all,” he added.

Forty-two cardinals, 42 bishops, and 1,800 priests living in Rome concelebrated the Mass with the pope in St. Peter’s Basilica.

Holy Thursday marks the institution of the Eucharist and institution of the sacrament of the priesthood at the Last Supper. Pope Francis will also preside over a Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Thursday evening at a women’s prison in Rome.

The 87-year-old pope arrived in St. Peter’s Basilica on Thursday morning in a wheelchair. Before giving his more than 20-minute homily, the pope took a sip of water and put on his reading glasses.

Pope Francis reflected in his homily on Peter’s tears after denying the Lord three times as recorded in the Gospel of Luke: “Peter remembered the word of the Lord … and went out and wept bitterly.”

Cardinal Angelo De Donatis presides at the altar during the Vatican's chrism Mass on Holy Thursday, March 28, 2024. Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA
Cardinal Angelo De Donatis presides at the altar during the Vatican's chrism Mass on Holy Thursday, March 28, 2024. Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA

“Dear brother priests, the healing of the heart of Peter, the healing of the apostle, the healing of the pastor, came about when, grief-stricken and repentant, he allowed himself to be forgiven by Jesus. That healing took place amid tears, bitter weeping, and the sorrow that leads to renewed love,” he said.

Compunction

Pope Francis said that he wanted to speak to the priests about the importance of compunction — an awareness of guilt due to sin — which the pope admitted is a “somewhat old-fashioned” term and “an aspect of the spiritual life that has been somewhat neglected, yet remains essential.”

The pope added that compunction “is not a sense of guilt that makes us discouraged or obsessed with our unworthiness, but a beneficial ‘piercing’ that purifies and heals the heart.”

“Compunction demands effort but bestows peace. It is not a source of anxiety but of healing for the soul, since it acts as a balm upon the wounds of sin, preparing us to receive the caress of the heavenly physician, who transforms the ‘broken, contrite heart,’” Pope Francis said.

Clergy assembled at the Vatican's Chrism Mass on Holy Thursday, March 28, 2024. Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA
Clergy assembled at the Vatican's Chrism Mass on Holy Thursday, March 28, 2024. Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA

The pope said that through compunction “the natural tendency to be indulgent with ourselves and inflexible with others is overturned and, by God’s grace, we become strict with ourselves and merciful toward others.”

“Weeping for ourselves … means seriously repenting for saddening God by our sins … It means looking within and repenting of our ingratitude and inconstancy, and acknowledging with sorrow our duplicity, dishonesty, and hypocrisy — clerical hypocrisy, dear brothers, that hypocrisy which we slip into so much — beware of clerical hypocrisy,” Francis said.

“How greatly we need to be set free from harshness and recrimination, selfishness and ambition, rigidity and frustration, in order to entrust ourselves completely to God and to find in him the calm that shields us from the storms raging all around us,” he added.

“Let us pray, intercede, and shed tears for others; in this way, we will allow the Lord to work his miracles. And let us not fear, for he will surely surprise us.”

During the Vatican’s chrism Mass, the pope, as the bishop of Rome, blessed the oil of the sick, the oil of catechumens, and the chrism oil, which will be used in the diocese during the coming year. Cardinal Angelo De Donatis served as the celebrant at the altar.

The oils were processed up the main altar of St. Peter’s in large silver urns as the hymns of the Sistine Chapel Choir filled the basilica.

Urns of oil are displayed at the Vatican's Chrism Mass on Holy Thursday, March 28, 2024. Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA
Urns of oil are displayed at the Vatican's Chrism Mass on Holy Thursday, March 28, 2024. Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Pope Francis prayed over the oil of the sick: “O God, Father of all consolation, who through your Son have willed to heal the infirmities of the sick, listen favorably to this prayer of faith: Send down from heaven, we pray, your Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, upon the rich substance of this oil, which you were pleased to bring forth from vigorous green trees to restore our bodies, so that by your holy blessing this oil may be for anyone who is anointed with it a safeguard for body, mind, and spirit, to take away every pain, every infirmity, and every sickness.”

The blessed oil will be used for the anointing of the sick in Rome throughout the year.

Pope Francis thanked the priests gathered in St. Peter’s Basilica for all they do to bring “the miracle of God’s mercy” to the world today.  

“Dear priests, thank you for your open and docile hearts; thank you for your labors and thank you for your tears; thank you because you bring the miracle of mercy … you bring God to the brothers and sisters of our time,” he said. “Dear priests, may the Lord console you, confirm you, and reward you.”

Watch the full Mass here:

In letter to Holy Land Christians, Pope Francis deplores the war, expresses closeness 

Students and teachers from Jerusalem Christian schools walk the Way of the Cross on the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem. The yearly event was organized by the Custody of the Holy Land on Friday, Feb. 23, 2024, on the occasion of Lent. / Credit: Marinella Bandini

Rome Newsroom, Mar 27, 2024 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis on Wednesday issued a letter to the Christians of the Holy Land in preparation for Good Friday, expressing his solidarity with a community that continues to suffer amid the ongoing Israel-Hamas war.

“Dear brothers and sisters, allow me to tell you once more that you are not alone. We will never leave you alone but will demonstrate our solidarity with you by prayer and practical charity,” the pope wrote in his Holy Wednesday letter.

“In these bleak times, when it seems that the dark clouds of Good Friday hover over your land, and all too many parts of our world are scarred by the pointless folly of war — which is always and for everyone a bitter defeat — you are lamps shining in the night, seeds of goodness in a land rent asunder by conflict,” the pope continued. 

Emphasizing his “paternal affection,” the pope joined the beleaguered population in sharing in their “sufferings” and “struggles.” 

“I embrace those most affected by the senseless tragedy of war: the children robbed of their future, those who grieve and are in pain, and all who find themselves prey to anguish and dismay,” the pope continued. 

Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, called the situation “objectively intolerable” in an interview last week with Italian television station TV2000. 

Imploring upon the world’s leaders to find an end to the carnage, Pizzaballa noted that there have always been many economic hardships, “but there has never been hunger before.” According to the Gazan Health Ministry, 27 children have died from malnutrition and dehydration. 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has pledged to press forward with the offensive to the densely populated city of Rafah in Southern Gaza, where more than 1.5 million people are sheltering. The United Nations Security Council voted on Monday for a resolution calling for an immediate cease-fire. 

In his letter the pope reflected on his own visit to the region in May 2014, marking the 50th anniversary of the historic meeting between Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras I in Jerusalem, and again stressed the imperative for peace.  

Quoting from Paul VI’s 1964 apostolic exhortation Nobis in Animo, Francis wrote: “The continuing tensions in the Middle East, and the lack of concrete progress toward peace, represent a constant and dire threat not only to the peace and security of those peoples — and indeed of the entire world — but also to values supremely dear, for different reasons, to much of mankind.” 

The pope also highlighted the particular importance of Easter, “the heart of our faith,” for Holy Land Christians, given its geographic centrality in the story of revelation and the place where Christ’s passion and death occurred.  

“The history of salvation, and indeed its geography, would not exist apart from the land in which you have dwelt for centuries,” the pope wrote. “There you want to remain, and there it is good that you should remain. Thank you for your testimony of faith, thank you for the charity that exists among you, thank you for your ability to hope against all hope.” 

Amid Holy Week, Pope Francis points to ‘beautiful testimony’ of fathers who lost daughters

Pope Francis waves to pilgrims gather in Paul VI Audience Hall for his Wednesday general audience on March 27, 2024. / Credit: Vatican Media

Vatican City, Mar 27, 2024 / 09:30 am (CNA).

Pope Francis on Wednesday used the example of two men — one Palestinian, one Israeli, both of whom lost their daughters in violent conflicts — to reflect on Christ’s suffering and his patience as the Church prepares for Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

Calling attention to the two men present at his general audience in the Paul VI Hall, the Holy Father told the assembly: “Both lost their daughters in this war and both are friends. They don’t look at the enmity of war, but they look at the friendship of two men who love each other and who went through the same crucifixion.”

“Let us think of this very beautiful testimony of these two people who suffered with their daughters from the war in the Holy Land. Dear brothers, thank you for your testimony.” 

Pope Francis addresses the faithful at his Wednesday general audience on March 27, 2024. Credit: Vatican Media
Pope Francis addresses the faithful at his Wednesday general audience on March 27, 2024. Credit: Vatican Media

Before the opening of the general audience, Pope Francis met briefly with the two fathers, exchanging embraces and several gifts. 

Rami Elhanan lost his 14-year-old daughter, Smadar, in 1997 when she was killed by a Palestinian suicide bomber while out shopping with friends in the center of Jerusalem.

Bassam Aramin lost his 10-year-old daughter Abir in 2007. She was shot dead outside her school by a young Israeli soldier. 

Both men have dedicated themselves to working toward peace in the war-torn region through the Parents Circle Families Forum, an association of Israeli and Palestinian families who recount their process of bereavement and spearhead projects aimed at greater dialogue and peace initiatives. 

Pope Francis meets with two bereaved fathers — one Israeli, one Palestinian — before his general audience on Wednesday, March 27, 2024, at the Vatican. Credit: Vatican Media
Pope Francis meets with two bereaved fathers — one Israeli, one Palestinian — before his general audience on Wednesday, March 27, 2024, at the Vatican. Credit: Vatican Media

“Brothers and sisters, let us pray for peace,” the pope said. “May there be peace in the Holy Land. May the Lord give peace to all, as a gift of his Easter”

The general audience, which was scheduled to take place in St. Peter’s Square, was moved to the Paul VI Audience Hall as central Italy headed into its second day of heavy rain. 

“Today the audience was scheduled in the square, but due to the rain it was moved inside. It’s true that you will be a little crowded, but at least we won’t be wet! Thank you for your patience,” the pope said.

Reflecting on the passion reading from Palm Sunday, the pope opened his remarks by noting that the suffering of Christ showcases his patience and love. 

“It is precisely in the Passion that Christ’s patience emerges, as with meekness and mildness he accepts being arrested, beaten, and condemned unjustly,” the pope said. “He does not recriminate before Pilate. He bears being insulted, spat upon, and flagellated by the soldiers. He carries the weight of the cross. He forgives those who nail him to the wood; and on the cross, he does not respond to provocations but rather offers mercy.”

Pope Francis greets American pilgrims at his Wednesday general audience on March 27, 2024. Credit: Vatican Media
Pope Francis greets American pilgrims at his Wednesday general audience on March 27, 2024. Credit: Vatican Media

“Patience,” the pope continued, “is not only a need but a calling: If Christ is patient, the Christian is called to be patient.” 

Responding to the question of how to grow in patience, Pope Francis implored the faithful to “broaden one’s outlook” and “to contemplate the Crucified One” as a way to cultivate greater patience with others, especially against the backdrop of Holy Week. 

“It starts by asking to look at them with compassion, with God’s gaze, knowing how to distinguish their faces from their faults.”

The pope ended by challenging the faithful to “go against the tide” of instant gratification and to instead cultivate this virtue in order to challenge “haste” and “impatience,” which “are the enemies of spiritual life.” 

“God is love, and those who love do not tire, they are not irascible, they do not give ultimatums but know how to wait.”

Pope Francis to write meditations for Good Friday Way of the Cross for the first time

The Stations of the Cross at Rome’s Colosseum, April 15, 2022. / Credit: Courtney Mares/CNA

Rome Newsroom, Mar 26, 2024 / 14:30 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis for the first time in his 11-year pontificate will pen his own spiritual meditations for Friday’s Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) against the dramatic backdrop of Rome’s historic Colosseum.

The reflection will be based on the theme “In Prayer with Jesus on the Way of the Cross.” The pope will write a unique treatment for each station, “centered on what Jesus experiences in that moment,” the Holy See Press Office announced.

Vatican News observed that the pope’s decision to write his own mediations this year dovetails with the spiritual dimension of the Year of Prayer, a period of reflection the pope has called in anticipation of the 2025 Jubilee Year.

In 1985 Pope John Paul II started the tradition of delegating the writing of the Good Friday Way of the Cross reflections to different individuals and groups. But he interrupted this custom when he authored his own reflections for the “Great Jubilee,” or Holy Year of 2000. Pope Benedict XVI continued with the tradition throughout his pontificate. 

The setting for the papal Way of the Cross is rich with history and holds a special meaning for Rome’s Christians. 

The Colosseum, which also bears the name of the Flavian Amphitheater, was constructed during the first century A.D. during the reign of the Flavian dynasty. The massive elliptical structure sits in the heart of ancient Rome and was known as a site for gladiatorial battles, military reenactments, and dramatic productions. 

Tradition holds that early Christians were martyred in large numbers at the Colosseum. Though the archaeological evidence of the Colosseum as a site for martyrdom is scarce, the world’s largest ancient amphitheater still holds a central place in the Christian imagination, serving as a symbol of the persecution of the early Church. 

In 1750 Pope Benedict XIV erected a large cross and the 14 stations of the cross there; in 1756 he dedicated the edifice to the memory of the passion of Christ and the martyrs. The tradition lasted for a century until the unification of Italy in 1861, when the Church lost its sovereign temporal authority over the city of Rome. 

Pope John XXIII presided over the Stations of the Cross at the Colosseum once in 1959. But it was not until 1964 with Pope Paul VI that the celebration became a permanent fixture of the pope’s Holy Week itinerary. 

In past years Pope Francis has entrusted the meditations to different groups and individuals reflecting a wide range of themes such as war and peace, migration, and the experience of the incarcerated.

Last year’s Way of the Cross was centered on the theme “Voices of Peace in a World at War,” incorporating the testimonies of victims of violence whom Pope Francis encountered during his international apostolic journeys over the past 10 years.

The full text of the meditations will be made available on Friday morning ahead of the service, which will begin at 9:15 p.m. Rome time.

Pope Francis to offer Mass in Venice’s St. Mark’s Square

St. Mark's Square in Venice, Italy. / Shutterstock|maziarz

Vatican City, Mar 25, 2024 / 11:45 am (CNA).

Pope Francis will travel by motorboat along Venice’s canals and offer Mass in St. Mark’s Square during his visit to the “floating city,” the Vatican announced Monday.

The Holy See Press Office has released the schedule for the pope’s upcoming day trip to Venice — the pope’s only scheduled trip so far in 2024.

Pope Francis will preside over a public Mass in St. Mark’s Square at 11 a.m. on Sunday, April 28, as he visits the Vatican pavilion at the Venice Biennale art exhibition

The 87-year-old pope will travel by helicopter from Vatican City to Venice in under two hours and will land on Giudecca Island, home to Venice’s women’s prison.

The pope’s first meeting will be with inmates in the prison, where he will also tour the Vatican art exhibit being displayed there and meet with the featured artists. 

Pope Francis will then travel by motorboat from Giudecca Island to Venice’s Basilica of Santa Maria della Salute, a place of pilgrimage in the city built in thanksgiving to the Virgin Mary for saving Venice from the terrible plague of 1630. 

The pope will give a speech to young people from dioceses throughout Italy’s northern Veneto region in the piazza in front of the basilica before crossing a bridge over the Grand Canal to arrive at St. Mark’s Square.

After the Mass, Pope Francis will privately venerate the relics of St. Mark the Evangelist inside the basilica. He will leave St. Mark’s Square via motorboat to arrive at a heliport on Sant’Elena Island, where he will depart by helicopter at 1 p.m. after having spent only five hours in Venice.

Pope Francis will be the first pope to visit the prestigious Venice Biennale art exhibition, which will be open to the public from April 20 to Nov. 24.

The Vatican has participated in the Art Biennale since 2013. The first Holy See Pavilion was commissioned by Pope Benedict XVI, who also visited Venice in 2011 and traveled across the Grand Canal in the same gondola as Pope John Paul II did in 1985.

Pope Francis gives thanks to young Nigerian priests and nuns who answered God’s call

Pope Francis meets with Nigerians living in Rome on March 25, 2024. / Credit: Vatican Media

Rome Newsroom, Mar 25, 2024 / 09:30 am (CNA).

Pope Francis gave thanks on Monday for the many young Nigerians who have answered God’s call to the priesthood or religious life.

In a meeting with Nigerians living in Rome on March 25, the pope said he was grateful for all that Nigerian Catholics have done to bear witness to the Gospel, especially as many parts of the country are experiencing insecurity and Christian persecution.

“I also join you in thanking Almighty God for the many young Nigerians who have heard the Lord’s call to the priesthood and consecrated life and responded with generosity, humility, and perseverance,” Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis meets with Nigerians living in Rome on March 25, 2024. Credit: Vatican Media
Pope Francis meets with Nigerians living in Rome on March 25, 2024. Credit: Vatican Media

“There are some here among you, young priests and young nuns,” he remarked. “May you always be missionary disciples, grateful that the Lord has chosen you to follow him and has sent you to zealously proclaim our faith and contribute to the construction of a more just and humane world.”

Nigeria has had a vocations boom in the past 50 years. In 2019, more than 400 diocesan priests were ordained in the West African country, which also sends priests to serve dioceses facing priest shortages in the United States and Europe.

Last year, Nigeria was recognized as having the highest Mass attendance in the world. A study by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University found that 94% of Nigeria’s 30 million Catholics say they attend Mass at least weekly or more, while only 17% of American Catholics attend Mass weekly.

Nigeria has also been recognized as one of the most dangerous countries in the world to be a Christian. According to Open Doors International 4,998 Christians were killed in Nigeria in 2023 amid attacks by Islamic militants, kidnappings by armed bandits, and overall insecurity.

Catholic bishops in Nigeria’s Ibadan ecclesiastical province issued a statement last month lamenting the country’s recurrent and pervasive security challenges. 

“Our dear country Nigeria is fast becoming a hostile killing field,” the bishops said.

Kidnappings from seminaries, monasteries, and other places of religious formation have been on the rise in Nigeria. While some victims of the kidnappings have been killed, seminarians who survived the ordeal have shared in interviews with ACI Africa, CNA’s news partner in Africa, how they have come back stronger — and ready to die for their faith.

Pope Francis addressed Nigeria’s security challenges during the audience and assured the Nigerian community of his prayers for security and unity in their country.

Pope Francis meets with Nigerians living in Rome on March 25, 2024. Credit: Vatican Media
Pope Francis meets with Nigerians living in Rome on March 25, 2024. Credit: Vatican Media

“Unfortunately, many regions of the world are experiencing conflict and suffering, and Nigeria is also experiencing difficult times,” the pope said.

“In assuring you of my prayers for the security, unity, and spiritual and economic progress of your nation, I invite everyone to encourage dialogue and listen to each other with an open heart, without excluding anyone on a political, social, and religious level,” Francis added.

The pope also encouraged Nigerians to be “heralds of the great mercy of the Lord, working for reconciliation between all your brothers and sisters, contributing to alleviating the burden of the poor and the most needy.”

“In this way all Nigerians will be able to continue to walk together in fraternal solidarity and harmony,” he said.

“I entrust your community to the loving protection of the Virgin Mary, queen and patroness of Nigeria, and I heartily bless you. And please don’t forget to pray for me,” Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis to young people: ‘Christ is alive and he wants you to be alive!’

Pope Francis addresses approximately 7,000 children from around the world in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall on Nov. 6, 2023, at an event sponsored by the Dicastery for Culture and Education dedicated to the theme “Let us learn from boys and girls.” / Credit: Vatican Media

Rome Newsroom, Mar 25, 2024 / 08:51 am (CNA).

Pope Francis published a message for young people on Monday urging them to realize that Christ is alive today and wants us to live in a way that is fully alive.

“Christ is alive and he wants you to be alive!” Pope Francis wrote in the letter signed on March 25.

“In today’s world, marked by so many conflicts and so much suffering, I suspect that many of you feel disheartened. So together with you, I would like to set out from the proclamation that is the basis of our hope and that of all humanity: ‘Christ is alive!’”

The pope’s message marked five years since the pope wrote Christus Vivit (“Christ Is Alive”), his postsynodal apostolic exhortation on the 2018 Synod of Bishops on young people, faith, and vocational discernment. 

Pope Francis signed the 50-page letter, addressed to “all Christian young people” in Loreto, Italy, in the Shrine of the Holy House of Mary on the solemnity of the Annunciation on March 25, 2019, calling the Marian shrine of Loreto “a privileged place where young people can come in search of their vocation.”

In his 2024 message to youth, the pope said he wanted to repeat to each young person individually: “Christ is alive and he loves you with an infinite love.”

“His love for you is unaffected by your failings or your mistakes. He gave his life for you, so in his love for you he does not wait for you to be perfect. Look at his arms outstretched on the cross, and let yourself be saved over and over again,” Pope Francis said.

“Walk with him as with a friend, welcome him into your life and let him share all the joys and hopes, the problems and struggles of this time in your lives. You will see that the path ahead will become clearer and that your difficulties will be much less burdensome, because he will be carrying them with you. So pray daily to the Holy Spirit who draws you ever more deeply into the heart of Christ, so that you can grow in his love, his life, and his power.”

The pope also encouraged young people to share this message of hope with their friends and to “make your voices heard.”

“For you have received a great mission: to bear witness before everyone to the joy born of friendship with Christ,” Pope Francis said.

“Proclaim, not so much in words but by your life and your heart, the truth that Christ is alive! And in this way, help the whole Church to get up and set out ever anew to bring his message to the entire world,” he said.

Pope Francis prays for victims of Moscow terrorist attack at Palm Sunday Mass

Pope Francis at Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter's Square on March 24, 2024. / Vatican Media

Vatican City, Mar 24, 2024 / 11:52 am (CNA).

Pope Francis offered prayers for the victims of the “vile terrorist attack” in Moscow at the end of his Palm Sunday Mass at the Vatican.

At least 130 people died after gunmen opened fire at a musical performance in a Moscow concert hall on Friday night, according to the Associated Press.

The Islamic State group’s Afghanistan affiliate claimed responsibility for the attack in Russia — a claim that U.S. intelligence officials have confirmed.

Speaking in St. Peter’s Square on March 24, Pope Francis prayed for the families of the victims as well as for the conversion of the perpetrators of the attack.

“May the Lord receive them in his peace and comfort their families. May he convert the hearts of those who plan, organize, and carry out these inhuman actions, which offend God, who commanded, ‘You shall not kill,’” the pope said.

After offering prayers for the victims in Moscow, Pope Francis made a long appeal for peace in Ukraine, asking people to pray in particular for those in Ukraine who do not have electricity.

“Let us pray for all our brothers and sisters who are suffering because of war,” the pope said. 

“In a special way, I am thinking of martyred Ukraine, where so many people find themselves without electricity because of the intense attacks against infrastructure that, in addition to causing death and suffering, carry the risk of an even larger humanitarian catastrophe.”

Pope Francis added: “Please, do not forget the tormented Ukraine. And let us think about Gaza, which suffers so much, and so many other places of war.”

The pope gave his peace appeal at the end of Palm Sunday Mass, where he opted not to give a homily at the last minute without explanation. 

Before praying the Angelus with the crowd at the end of Mass, Francis gave a brief reflection on the Gospel account of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem on a donkey.

“Dear brothers and sisters, Jesus entered Jerusalem as a humble and peaceful king. Let us open our hearts to him. Only he can deliver us from enmity, hatred, violence, for he is the mercy and forgiveness of sins,” Pope Francis said.

The 87-year-old pope, who arrived at the Mass in a wheelchair, has a busy week ahead as he is scheduled to preside over liturgies each day of the Easter Triduum.

“And now we turn in prayer to the Virgin Mary. Let us learn from her to stay close to Jesus during the days of Holy Week, in order to arrive at the joy of the Resurrection,” Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis on Palm Sunday: Jesus entered Jerusalem as a humble king

Pope Francis at Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter's Square on March 24, 2024. / Credit: Vatican Media

Vatican City, Mar 24, 2024 / 09:45 am (CNA).

On Palm Sunday, hundreds of priests, bishops, cardinals, and laypeople solemnly carried large palm branches in procession through St. Peter’s Square to begin the first liturgy of Holy Week.

“Dear brothers and sisters, since the beginning of Lent until now we have prepared our hearts by penance and charitable works,” Pope Francis said in a soft voice at the beginning of Palm Sunday Mass on March 24.

“Today we gather together to herald with the whole Church the beginning of the celebration of our Lord’s paschal mystery, that is to say, of his passion and resurrection.”

Cardinals and bishops carry intricately decorated palm branches in the Palm Sunday procession in St. Peter's Square on March 24, 2024. Credit: Bénédicte Cedergren/EWTN News
Cardinals and bishops carry intricately decorated palm branches in the Palm Sunday procession in St. Peter's Square on March 24, 2024. Credit: Bénédicte Cedergren/EWTN News

Speaking in St. Peter’s Square adorned with palms and greenery, the pope invited the crowd to follow in Jesus’ footsteps as he entered Jerusalem “so that being made by his grace partakers of the cross, we may have a share also in his resurrection and in his life.”

Pope Francis chose not to read the homily prepared for Palm Sunday Mass at the last minute without explanation. The 87-year-old pope, who arrived at the Mass in a wheelchair, has had aides read some of his speeches for him in recent weeks.

Pope Francis arrives at Palm Sunday Mass in a wheelchair on March 24, 2024. Bénédicte Cedergren/EWTN News
Pope Francis arrives at Palm Sunday Mass in a wheelchair on March 24, 2024. Bénédicte Cedergren/EWTN News

The pope did read the prayers for the Mass and spoke at the end of the liturgy, offering an appeal for peace in Ukraine and prayers for the victims of the terrorist attack in Moscow.

In his peace appeal, Pope Francis gave a brief reflection on the Gospel account of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem on a donkey as the Prince of Peace.

“Dear brothers and sisters, Jesus entered Jerusalem as a humble and peaceful king. Let us open our hearts to him. Only he can deliver us from enmity, hatred, violence, because he is mercy and the forgiveness of sins,” the pope said.

Pope Francis at Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter's Square on March 24, 2024. Credit: Vatican Media
Pope Francis at Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter's Square on March 24, 2024. Credit: Vatican Media

Palm Sunday is the only Mass of the year in which two Gospels are proclaimed. The Gospel of Mark’s account of Jesus entering Jerusalem on a donkey was read aloud at the beginning of the Mass and later the Passion of the Lord was solemnly proclaimed with a choir singing the words of the crowd.

An estimated 60,000 people were at the papal Mass, according to the Vatican Gendarmes.

At the conclusion of the liturgy, Pope Francis rode through St. Peter’s Square on the popemobile greeting enthusiastic pilgrims who waved flags and cheered.

Pope Francis at Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter's Square on March 24, 2024. Credit: Vatican Media
Pope Francis at Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter's Square on March 24, 2024. Credit: Vatican Media

Pope Francis has a busy schedule for Holy Week. He will preside over a chrism Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica on Thursday morning before going to a women’s prison in Rome to offer Holy Thursday’s Mass of the Lord’s Supper.

Pope Francis at Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter's Square on March 24, 2024. Credit: Vatican Media
Pope Francis at Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter's Square on March 24, 2024. Credit: Vatican Media

The pope is also scheduled to preside over a celebration for the Passion of the Lord on Good Friday at the Vatican and lead the Stations of the Cross devotion in Rome’s Colosseum.

Palm Sunday procession in St. Peter's Square on March 24, 2024. Credit: Bénédicte Cedergren/EWTN News
Palm Sunday procession in St. Peter's Square on March 24, 2024. Credit: Bénédicte Cedergren/EWTN News

On Holy Saturday, Pope Francis is set to preside over the Easter Vigil liturgy, where he will baptize new Catholics. On the morning of Easter Sunday, Pope Francis will be back in St. Peter’s Square for Mass and will give the annual “urbi et orbi” Easter blessing.

At the end of Palm Sunday Mass, Pope Francis said: “And now we turn in prayer to the Virgin Mary. Let us learn from her to stay close to Jesus during the days of Holy Week, in order to arrive at the joy of the Resurrection.”

Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter's Square on March 24, 2024. Bénédicte Cedergren/EWTN News
Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter's Square on March 24, 2024. Bénédicte Cedergren/EWTN News

This article was updated at 3:30 p.m. local time with excerpts of Pope Francis' peace appeal at the end of Mass.