Vatican City — Pope Francis on Saturday denounced how migrants, the poor and marginalised see their “human dignity crucified” every day through injustices and corruption, and urged the faithful in an Easter Vigil message to keep hope alive for a better future.
Francis presided over the solemn late-night ceremony in St Peter’s Basilica at a time of heightened security fears following a spate of Islamic-inspired attacks and tensions over Europe’s migrant influx.
Security was particularly tight, part of the heavier-than-usual safety measures that have been deployed around the world for Holy Week activities, particularly following the twin Palm Sunday attacks on Coptic churches in Egypt that killed at least 45 people.
Holding a single candle, Francis processed down the basilica’s centre aisle, symbolising the darkness that fell after Jesus’ crucifixion on Good Friday. When Francis reached the altar, the basilica’s floodlights turned on, symbolising the light of Christ’s resurrection.
In his homily, Francis recalled the biblical scene of two women approaching Jesus’ tomb and said their desolation over his death can be seen every day in the faces of women whose children have been victims of poverty, exploitation and injustice.
“We can also see the faces of those who are greeted with contempt because they are immigrants, deprived of country, house and family,” he said.
Others are victims of paralysed bureaucracies and corruption “that strips them of their rights and shatters their dreams,” the pope said, echoing two themes he has emphasised in his four-year papacy: caring for migrants and denouncing corruption.
“In their grief, these two women reflect the faces of all those who, walking the streets of our cities, behold human dignity crucified.”
But rather than remain resigned to such a fate, Francis urged the faithful to have hope, as symbolised by Christ’s resurrection.
He called for Catholics to “break down all the walls that keep us locked in our sterile pessimism, in our carefully constructed ivory towers that isolate us from life, in our compulsive need for security and in boundless ambition that can make us compromise the dignity of others.”
Saturday’s late-night service came just hours after Francis presided over the evocative torch-lit Good Friday procession at Rome’s Colosseum, where he repeatedly denounced the “shame” of the blood spilled by innocent children, women and migrants in the world’s conflicts, shipwrecks and other tragedies.
Yesterday, Francis celebrate the joyful Easter Mass in a flower-filled St. Peter’s Square. Thousands of people braved street closures, metal detectors and other security measures to reach the square for the Mass.
Meanwhile, Egyptian Coptic Christians observed Easter Mass under tight security on Saturday with the ancient minority still reeling from twin church bombings that killed dozens just days before.
In Saint Mark’s Cathedral, where Coptic Pope Tawadros II led the mass, worshippers passed through three metal detectors as policemen and soldiers stood guard in the sprawling compound and on the streets outside.
Two Islamic State group suicide bombers had struck two churches north of Cairo last Sunday, killing 45 people in the worst attack on Copts in recent memory.
Police cordoned off roads leading to the cathedral compound, where another suicide bomber had attacked last December, killing 29 people.
The government declared a state of emergency and called in the army to protect “vital” installations following last Sunday’s suicide bombings in Tanta and Alexandria.
The Islamic State group, which claimed all three bombing, has threatened more.
Following the Palm Sunday attacks, the church had said it would scale back Easter celebrations.
“Tanta and Alexandria created a big shock, for all of Egypt,” Coptic Church spokesperson Boulos Halim said.
Easter, which along with Christmas is one of Christianity’s most important events, marks what followers believe was the resurrection of Christ on the third day after his crucifixion.