By Philip Pullella
VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Francis led the world’s Roman Catholics into Easter at a Saturday night vigil Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, decrying the “icy winds of war” and other injustices.
The 86-year-old Francis skipped an outdoor event on Friday night because of unseasonably cold temperatures in Rome. His doctors ordered prudence after he was hospitalised last week for bronchitis.
Francis appeared to be well during the Easter Vigil service, during which he baptised eight adult converts to Catholicism.
After starting the service in the rear of the church with the traditional lighting of a large paschal candle, he was taken in a wheelchair to the front to preside at the Mass.
Easter is the most important day in the Christian liturgical calendar because it commemorates the day the Bible says Jesus rose from the dead.
In his homily, read before about 8,000 people in Christendom’s largest church, Francis spoke of the bitterness, dismay and disillusionment many feel today.
“We may feel helpless and discouraged before the power of evil, the conflicts that tear relationships apart, the attitudes of calculation and indifference that seem to prevail in society, the cancer of corruption, the spread of injustice, the icy winds of war,” he said.
Francis has called for an end to all wars, and since Russia invaded Ukraine in February, 2022, he has repeatedly referred to Ukraine and its people as being “martyred”.
Reading his homily in a strong and confident voice, Francis said that even when people felt the wellspring of hope had dried up, it was important not to be frozen in a sense of defeat but to seek an “interior resurrection” with God’s help.
Francis concludes Holy Week celebrations on Sunday by presiding at an Easter day Mass in St. Peter’s Square and then delivering his twice-annual “Urbi et Orbi” (to the city and the world) blessing and message from the central external balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica.
(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Christina Fincher)