By Elise Harris
With Easter only a month away, plans have already been set in the Vatican for the celebrations surrounding the big day, and the lead-up to Holy Week will be filled with several papal daytrips, Masses, and liturgies.
The Pope began Lent with his March 5-10 spiritual exercises alongside members of the Curia in Ariccia, a small town just outside of Rome.
Next on the schedule is a March 17 penitential service in St. Peter’s Basilica, during which several individuals will go to confession with the Pope as part of his annual “24 Hours for the Lord” event, which this year takes place the third Friday and Saturday of Lent.
A worldwide initiative led by Pope Francis, the event was launched in 2014 under the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization and points to confession as the primary way to experience God’s mercy.
On March 25, the feast of the Annunciation of the Lord, Francis will make a daylong pastoral visit to Milan, where he is scheduled to say Mass, meet with youth who recently received Confirmation, and visit the city’s cathedral and a prison.
After his visit to Milan, the Pope will start the month of April by making another daylong visit to the northern Italian town of Carpi, during which he will commemorate the nearly 20 people who died when an earthquake struck the region in 2012.
One week later Pope Francis will say Mass for Palm Sunday at 10 a.m. in St. Peter’s Square April 9, during which he will process with palms from the obelisk in the middle of the square to the main altar, as is tradition.
During the Mass, the World Youth Day Cross will be handed over from Poland to Panama, signaling the location of the next international encounter in 2019. As is customary, the Pope will also deliver his message for WYD at a local level, which this year holds the theme “The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name,” taken from Lk 1:49.
On April 13, Pope Francis will offer the Chrism Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica at 9:30 a.m., which will be concelebrated with the cardinals, patriarchs, archbishops, bishops, and priests present in Rome.
Then in the afternoon he will say the Mass of the Lord’s Supper with the traditional washing of feet. The location of this year’s Holy Thursday liturgy has yet to be announced, but Francis has typically chosen to hold it either in prisons or centers for the sick and disabled. Last year the celebration was held at a refugee welcoming center on the outskirts of Rome.
On Good Friday the Pope will preside over an afternoon liturgy commemorating the Lord’s Passion in St. Peter’s Basilica at 5 p.m., with the papal preacher Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM Cap., delivering the homily, as usual.
Later that night he will make his way to the Colosseum to pray the Via Crucis with the faithful at 9:15 p.m., extending his blessing to all present. The name of person writing this year’s meditations has yet to be announced.
The following night, Holy Saturday, Francis will celebrate the Easter Vigil in St. Peter’s Basilica at 8:30 p.m. In previous years he has baptized and confirmed several individuals during the celebration, and is expected to do so again this year.
On April 16, Easter Sunday, the Pope will hold a public Mass in St. Peter’s Square at 10 a.m. Immediately after, he will give his special “urbi et orbi” blessing, “to the city and to the world.”