Pope Francis carries a candle in procession as he arrives to celebrate the Easter Vigil in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican March 26.


Pope Francis carries a candle in procession as he arrives to celebrate the Easter Vigil in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican March 26.

April 4, 2016

Easter is a feast of hope and mercy which should enable us to see suffering people with God's love and compassion, Pope Francis said on Easter Sunday March 27.

Before giving his blessing urbi et orbi (to the city and the world), the pope said Easter should give people the courage to "blaze trails of reconciliation with God and with all our brothers and sisters."

The pope pointed to "those who hunger and thirst, strangers and prisoners, the marginalized and the outcast, the victims of oppression and violence" as those in most need of compassion.

On Easter morning, the pope does not give a homily. Instead, he led the tens of thousands of people in the square in silent reflection.

After Mass, the pope prayed that the Lord would touch places in the globe scarred by war, terrorism, poverty and environmental destruction.

"The risen Christ points out paths of hope to beloved Syria, a country torn by a lengthy conflict, with its sad wake of destruction, death, contempt for humanitarian law and the breakdown of civil concord," the pope said.

He also prayed for a definitive solution to the war in Ukraine.

On Easter and throughout the Holy Week liturgies, Pope Francis showed special concern for the fate of refugees and migrants fleeing violence and poverty and for Christians facing persecution.

At Rome's Colosseum Good Friday, after presiding over the Stations of the Cross, the pope offered a long meditation on how Christ continues to be scorned, tortured and crucified in suffering people around the world.

"O Cross of Christ," he said, "today too we see you raised up in our sisters and brothers killed, burned alive, throats slit and decapitated by barbarous blades amid cowardly silence."

"O Cross of Christ, today too we see you in the faces of children, of women and people, worn out and fearful, who flee from war and violence and who often only find death and many Pilates who wash their hands," he said.

Two days later, celebrating the resurrection, Pope Francis said the Easter message "invites us not to forget those men and women seeking a better future, an ever more numerous throng of migrants and refugees - including many children - fleeing from war, hunger, poverty and social injustice."

Celebrating the Easter Vigil, Pope Francis said Easter is a celebration of hope that begins in the heart of each Christian.

"Christ wants to come and take us by the hand to bring us out of our anguish.

"This is the first stone to be moved aside this night: the lack of hope which imprisons us within ourselves.

"The Lord is alive and wants to be sought among the living," the pope said.

"After having found him, each person is sent out by him to announce the Easter message, to awaken and resurrect hope in hearts burdened by sadness, in those who struggle to find meaning in life."

In his Easter Vigil homily, the pope said our faith must allow Christ to bring life and break open their tombs, sealed by "the stones of our rancor and the boulders of our past."

The Holy Spirit "pours into us the vitality of life, which is not the absence of problems, but the certainty of being loved and always forgiven by Christ, who has conquered sin, death and fear."