ROME — Pope Francis has issued a special message for Holy Week, urging Christians to cling to hope in the midst of the coronavirus lockdown.
“We will celebrate Holy Week in a truly unusual way,” the pope said in an April 3 video-message, “which manifests and sums up the message of the Gospel, that of God’s boundless love.”
“And in the silence of our cities, the Easter Gospel will resound,” Francis said.
The Vatican announced some time ago that the usual public Holy Week celebrations, beginning with the Palm Sunday papal Mass in Saint Peter’s Square, would be suspended this year in accord with government restrictions on gatherings.
“In the risen Jesus, life conquered death,” the pontiff said in his Holy Week message. “This Paschal faith nourishes our hope.”
“It is the hope of a better time, in which we can be better, finally freed from evil and from this pandemic,” he continued. “It is a hope: hope does not disappoint; it is not an illusion, it is a hope.”
In his message, the pope also expressed his sorrow over the difficult situation in which many people are living because of the coronavirus lockdown.
“If you allow me, I would like to have a conversation with you for a few moments, in this time of difficulty and of suffering,” he said. “I can imagine you in your families, living an unusual life to avoid contagion. I am thinking of the liveliness of children and young people, who cannot go out, attend school, live their lives.”
“I have in my heart all the families, especially those who have a loved one who is sick or who have unfortunately experienced mourning due to the coronavirus or other causes,” Francis said. “These days I often think about people who are alone, and for whom it is more difficult to face these moments. Above all I think of the elderly, who are very dear to me.”
The pope also reached out to those who are sick with COVID-19 and those who will spend Holy Week in hospital, while also praising the example of dedicated healthcare workers.
“I am aware of the generosity of those who put themselves at risk for the treatment of this pandemic or to guarantee the essential services to society. So many heroes, every day, at every hour!” he said.
Acknowledging the costly fallout from measures to contain the virus, the pope said he remembers “how many are in financial straits and are worried about work and the future,” while also mentioning prison inmates and the homeless, “who do not have a home to protect them.”
“It is a difficult time for everyone. For many, very difficult,” Francis said. “The pope knows this and, with these words, he wants to tell everyone of his closeness and affection.”
In his message, the pope also offered counsel regarding how best to use these difficult days.
“Let us try, if we can, to make the best use of this time: let us be generous; let us help those in need in our neighbourhood; let us look out for the loneliest people, perhaps by telephone or social networks; let us pray to the Lord for those who are in difficulty in Italy and in the world,” he said.
“Even if we are isolated, thought and spirit can go far with the creativity of love,” he said. “This is what we need today: the creativity of love. This is what is needed today: the creativity of love.”
“Thank you for allowing me into your homes,” Francis concluded. “Make a gesture of tenderness towards those who suffer, towards children, and towards the elderly. Tell them that the pope is close and pray, that the Lord will soon deliver us all from evil.”