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ROME —Tens of thousdands gathered at St. Peter's Square as Pope Francis celebrated Palm Sunday Mass. Palm Sunday marks the start of the holiest and one of the busiest times on the Pope’s calendar. On the day the Church also celebrated the day of the youth, the pope urged young people not to be ashamed to show their enthusiasm for Jesus.
As is tradition, Sunday Mass in Saint Peter’s Square on Palm Sunday began with Pope Francis sprinkling holy water and blessing palm fronds and olive branches for the service in front of the towering obelisk in the center of the square. The Vatican said over 40,000 people were present for the occasion.
The pope wore bright red vestments and held a braided palm as he and many cardinals and bishops took part in a long procession before he held mass at an open-air altar in front of Saint Peter’s Basilica. Palm Sunday marks the day Jesus made his triumphant entry into Jerusalem.
Pope Francis began his homily by saying, “Joyful acclamations at Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem, followed by his humiliation. Festive cries followed by brutal torture. This two-fold mystery accompanies our entrance into Holy Week each year.”
The pope said that it was important to resist the temptations of triumphalism and remain humble. He added, “One subtle form of triumphalism is spiritual worldliness, which represents the greatest danger, the most treacherous temptation facing the Church”. The pope said that “Jesus destroyed his triumphalism by his Passion”.
On Palm Sunday, the church also marks World Youth Day. The pope called on young people not to be ashamed to show their enthusiasm for Jesus but at the same time not to fear following “him on the way to the cross.” The Vatican has announced that the next World Youth Day will be held in Portugal in 2021.
Pope Francis asked those gathered at the end of the mass to pray for peace in the Holy Land and all of the Middle East.
Like every year the pope has a busy schedule this week. On Holy Thursday he will visit the prison of Velletri, south of Rome, where he will wash the feet of 12 prisoners. On Good Friday he will lead the Way of the Cross procession at Rome’s ancient Colosseum. And, on Easter Sunday the pope will give his traditional blessing to the city and to the world.