Pope Francis opens Holy Week at Vatican on Palm Sunday

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The present and past pope, who retired last month as pontiff in a 600-year break with tradition, met on Saturday at the papal retreat in Castel Gandolfo, where Benedict is staying until a former convent on the grounds of Vatican City can be readied for his residence. It was Francis’ first meeting with his predecessor since his election, and both men are presumed to have discussed challenges facing both managing the Vatican’s often creaky bureaucracy and shoring up faith among Catholics worldwide.

In his homily, Francis said Christian joy “isn’t born from possessing a lot of things but from having met” Jesus. That same joy should keep people young, he said.

“Even at 70, 80, the heart doesn’t age” if one is inspired by Christian joy, the 76-year-old pontiff said.

Francis said he was joyfully looking forward to welcoming young people to Rio de Janiero for the Catholic Church’s World Youth Day. So far, that is the first foreign trip on the calendar of Francis’ new papacy.

“I’m coming in July,” Francis said in remarks after Mass from the esplanade of the basilica.

During Mass, at the point when the Gospel recounts the moment of Jesus’ death, many faithful knelt on hard cobblestones paving the square, and Francis knelt on a wooden kneeler.

A few young olive trees were inserted in dirt placed around the central obelisk in the square.

Holy Week will see at least one break from tradition with this new papacy. Instead of washing priests’ feet in a symbolic gesture of humility on Holy Thursday, Francis will wash the feet of young inmates at a juvenile detention center in Rome. Other appointments in public will include the Way of the Cross procession at the Colosseum on Good Friday night. Next Sunday, Francis will celebrate Easter Mass in the square.

Francis seemed to hold up well, although when riding in the popemobile, he wobbled a bit when he took his hands off the grab bar to wave to the crowd.

At the end of Palm Sunday’s service, Francis made his first foray into delivering greetings in various languages, with brief words in French, English and German.

 

 

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