Vatican Corner 04-19-2020

Easter Sunday Mass at the Vatican on April 12, 2020, was held inside the nearly empty St. Peter’s Basilica rather than outside in St. Peter’s Square. The celebration normally draws tens of thousands of people to the Square, but this time it was surrounded by police barricades to block people from gathering. The nearby streets were empty and quiet, as Italy is under nationwide coronavirus lockdown orders and quarantines to prevent the virus spread. Worldwide the Covid-19 virus has claimed more than 113,000 lives so far, with more than 20,000 in Italy and 20,600 in the United States. In the Square there were none of the usual beautiful fresh flower decorations, but there were several potted palms and white hydrangeas inside the Basilica. A very small number of the faithful were allowed to enter the Basilica with only one person permitted per pew.in order to following the social distancing rules. The choir sang through protective masks and their hymns echoed off the bare marble floors. Pope Francis had only a few of his closest associates with him as he delivered the traditional Easter Urbi et Orbi message to Rome and the World. But millions of people watched and listened to him from around the world, using various media devices, and they heard Francis declare “Christ, my hope, is risen!” His message challenged us to resist indifference, self-centeredness, division, and forgetfulness during this time of the virus and instead to spread a different “contagion” one of hope “from heart to heart.” Christ’s resurrection is not a “magic formula that makes problems vanish, it is the victory of love over the root of evil. This victory “does not by-pass suffering and death, but passes through them, opening a path in the abyss, transforming evil into good.” Pope Francis talked about the virus. He said “For many, this is an Easter of solitude, lived amid the sorrow and hardship that the pandemic is causing, from physical suffering to economic difficulties. The disease has not only deprived us of human closeness, but also the possibility of receiving in person the consolation that flows from the sacraments, particularly the Eucharist and Reconciliation. But the Lord has not left us alone, united in our prayer, we are convinced that He has laid His hand upon us.” Pope Francis expressed thankfulness and affection to doctors and nurses, and “to all who work diligently to guarantee the essential services necessary for civil society, and to law enforcement and military personnel who in many countries have helped ease people’s difficulties and sufferings.” Francis concluded with a prayer: “May Christ, who has already defeated death and opened for us the way to eternal salvation, dispel the darkness of our suffering humanity and lead us into the light of His glorious day. A day that knows no end.”