The Vatican made public the schedule of Pope Francis' liturgical celebrations for March and April, including the list of Lenten and Easter activities over which he will preside. Beginning the Lenten season on March 5, Ash Wednesday, the Pope will hold a “statio” and penitential procession 4:30 p.m. in the Basilica of Sant'Anselmo, and at 5 p.m. he will bless and distribute the ashes at the Basilica of Santa Sabina in Rome. For the First Sunday of Lent, taking place on March 9, the Roman Curia will begin their spiritual exercises, which will conclude on Friday, March 14. On March 16, the Second Sunday of Lent, Pope Francis will make a pastoral visit to the Roman parish Santa Maria dell'Orazione, and will celebrate a penitential liturgy the next Friday, March 28, at 5 p.m. in St. Peter's Basilica. The following Sunday, April 6, the Pope will make another pastoral visit to a Roman parish at 4 p.m. In honor of Palm Sunday and the Passion of our Lord on April 13, Pope Francis will hold a blessing of the palms and a procession at 9:30 a.m. in St. Peter's Square. Following these events, he will celebrate Mass inside of the Papal Chapel. On Holy Thursday the pontiff will celebrate a Chrism Mass in St. Peter's Basilica at 9:30 a.m., and on Good Friday, taking place on April 18, he will celebrate the Lord's Passion at 5 p.m. in St. Peter's Basilica, and will pray the Stations of the Cross at 9:15 p.m. at the Colosseum. For Holy Thursday, the Vatican made a made a special note that although the Pope will preside over the “in Coena Domini” Mass in the afternoon, he will — like last year as well as in previous years in Buenos Aires — select a “situation of a special nature from a pastoral point of view, which will be communicated when appropriate.” As such, there will be no celebration in St. Peter's Basilica that evening, nor will there be the possibility for a large number of faithful to attend, as the Papal Household will not be distributing tickets for this event. Saturday, April 19 the Pope will preside over the Easter Vigil at 8:30 p.m. in St. Peter's Basilica, and on Easter Sunday he will hold a public Mass in St. Peter's Square at 10:15 a.m., after which he will give the “Urbi et Orbi,” which is a special blessing given “to the city and to the world,” from the Basilica's central balcony. For the Second Sunday of Easter, or Divine Mercy Sunday, taking place on April 27, Pope Francis will preside over a public Mass in St. Peter's Square at 10 a.m., during which he will canonize both Bl. John Paul II and John XXIII. Announced by the Vatican last September, the canonization of both pontiff's was approved after the verification of the second miracle needed in the case of Bl. John Paul II last summer. However, in the case of John XXIII, Pope Francis has decided to canonize him despite the fact that only one miracle has been formally approved by the Vatican, instead of the usual two. Although the decision to waive the second miracle is unusual, it is within the authority of the Pope to do so. When the decision to canonize the pontiff was announced last summer, Vatican press office director Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J. explained that since there was already one approved miracle allowing Pope John XXIII to be beatified, the canonization will still be valid, even without a second miracle. Bl. John XXII is most known for his encyclical “Pacem in Terris,” and for his calling of the Second Vatican Council, the 50th anniversary of which is currently being celebrated during the Year of Faith. Bl. John Paul II is perhaps one of the most well-known pontiffs in recent history, and is most remembered for his charismatic nature, his love of youth and his world travels, along with his role in the fall of communism in Europe during his 27-year papacy. The cherished Polish Pope died in 2005, marking his 2011 beatification as one of the quickest in recent Church history, and is the first Pope to be beatified by his immediate successor.
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