Pope to Lead Full Slate of Holy Week, Easter Liturgies

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Benedict XVI will lead a full slate of Holy Week and Easter liturgies in Rome and at the Vatican, keeping pace with a usually busy papal schedule.

Publishing the pope’s schedule on 29 January, the Vatican said his Holy Week activities will begin with a procession and Mass in St. Peter’s Square on Palm Sunday, 24 March.

Pope Benedict will celebrate a morning chrism Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica on Holy Thursday and that evening will preside over the Mass of the Lord’s Supper in Rome’s Basilica of St. John Lateran, the cathedral of Rome.

On Good Friday, he will celebrate the liturgy of the Lord’s Passion in St. Peter’s Basilica in the late afternoon, and then will lead a nighttime Way of the Cross at Rome’s Coliseum.

As a way to recall his 2012 visit to Lebanon and invite the whole church to pray for the Middle East — its tensions and its beleaguered Christian community — the meditations read during the Way of the Cross will be written by two young Lebanese. Each year, the pope asks a different person to write the meditations, and this year he asked Lebanon’s Maronite Patriarch Bechara Peter to choose the youths and guide their preparation of the texts.

On Holy Saturday, the pope will preside over the Easter Vigil in St. Peter’s Basilica. On Easter, March 31, he will celebrate Mass in St. Peter’s Square and give his blessing “urbi et orbi” (“to the city of Rome and the world”).

The Vatican also released the pope’s Lenten schedule. He will celebrate Mass at Rome’s Basilica of Santa Sabina on Ash Wednesday, 13 February, and begin his weeklong spiritual retreat 17 February.

Italian Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, will preach the papal retreat this year.

The Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, said the cardinal will focus on “Ars orandi, ars credendi” (“the art of praying, the art of believing”), looking particularly at “the face of God and the face of man in the Psalm prayers.”

The pope’s February schedule begins with a Mass on 2 February with men and women religious in St. Peter’s Basilica to mark the feast of the Presentation of the Lord and World Day for Consecrated Life.

On 11 February, the pope will lead a brief “ordinary public consistory,” a formal ceremony opened and closed with prayer, during which cardinals present in Rome will express their support for the pope’s decision to create several new saints.

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