Pope Francis' full slate of events for Holy Week includes plans for a traditional Stations of the Cross, Easter Masses and a universal blessing given on Easter Day. The Vatican’s office for liturgical celebrations, headed by Archbishop Guido Marini, issued on March 20 the complete schedule of papal events for this year’s Holy Week. The week preceding Easter begins with Palm Sunday, which recalls how the inhabitants of Jerusalem laid palms along the road where Jesus entered on a donkey, hailing him as king. Pope Francis will preside over the liturgy, which falls on March 29, by celebrating Mass at 9:30 a.m. in St. Peter's Square, after blessing palm and olive branches handed out to attendees. Palm Sunday also marks the 30th World Youth Day, which was established by St. John Paul II in 1984. This year's theme — the second in a series on the beatitudes — is “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Last year’s theme was “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” while the next year’s theme for the international gathering in Krakow, Poland, will be “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.” While World Youth Day is celebrated every year, it is only marked by massive international gatherings every two to three years. This year’s celebration will be at the diocesan level, with next year’s event in Poland will be a major global gathering, with the Pope anticipated to attend. On Holy Thursday — the day commemorating the Last Supper — Pope Francis will celebrate a Chrism Mass inside St. Peter's Basilica at 9:30 a.m., during which he will bless the holy oils to be used for the sacraments during the coming year. Later in the day, he will visit a prison in Rome, where he will wash the feet of inmates and celebrate the Mass of the Lord’s Supper. The next day, Good Friday, the Pope will keep in line with papal tradition and celebrate a service for the Passion of Our Lord at 5 p.m. in St. Peter’s Basilica before heading to the Colosseum. Francis is set to arrive at the Colosseum around 9:15 p.m., where he will lead thousands in the traditional prayer of the Stations of the Cross. Afterward, he will give his apostolic blessing before returning to the Vatican. The Roman tradition of holding the Way of the Cross at the Colosseum on Good Friday goes back to the pontificate of Benedict XIV, who died in 1758. Each year a different group or individual is selected to write the reflections, and the bishop assigned with the task this year — Bishop Renato Corti — also preached the final Lenten spiritual exercises for St. John Paul II. Bishop Corti, 79, is Bishop Emeritus of Novara; he told Vatican Radio March 7 the meditations he has prepared focus on the keyword 'protecting.' In 2005, Bishop Corti was called by St. John Paul II to preach to the Roman Curia for the traditional Lenten Spiritual Exercise in the Vatican. The Pope died a week later, on April 2, 2005. On Holy Saturday, which falls on April 4, Pope Francis will preside over the Easter Vigil in St. Peter’s Basilica starting at 8:30 p.m. After blessing the new fire and the large, beeswax candle that will burn throughout the year, known as the Easter candle, in the atrium of the basilica, the Pope will administer the sacrament of baptism to certain individuals before concelebrating Mass with the other bishops and cardinals present. Easter morning, April 5, Francis will celebrate the Mass of Our Lord’s Resurrection in St. Peter’s Square at 10:15 a.m. before giving his 'Urbi et Orbi' blessing — which goes out to the city of Rome and to the world — from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica.
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