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Pope urges Catholics to ‘break down the walls of sterile pessimism’ at Easter Vigil

Pope Francis walks with the Paschal candle during the Easter Vigil in St Peter's Basilica (Getty)

Pope Francis has denounced how migrants, the poor and marginalised see their “human dignity crucified” every day through injustice and corruption, and urged the faithful in an Easter Vigil message to keep hope alive for a better future.

Francis presided over the solemn evening ceremony in St Peter’s Basilica at a time of heightened security fears following a spate of Islamist attacks and tensions over Europe’s migrant influx.

Security was particularly tight, part of the heavier than usual safety measures that have been deployed around the world for Holy Week activities, particularly following the twin Palm Sunday attacks on Coptic churches in Egypt that killed at least 45 people.

Holding a single candle, Francis processed down the basilica’s centre aisle, symbolising the darkness that fell after Jesus’s Crucifixion on Good Friday. When Francis reached the altar, the basilica’s floodlights turned on, symbolising the light of Christ’s Resurrection.

In his homily (full text), Francis recalled the biblical scene of two women approaching Jesus’s tomb and said their desolation over his death can be seen every day in the faces of women whose children have been victims of poverty, exploitation and injustice.

“We can also see the faces of those who are greeted with contempt because they are immigrants, deprived of country, house and family,” he said.

Others are victims of paralysed bureaucracies and corruption “that strips them of their rights and shatters their dreams”, the Pope said, echoing two themes he has emphasised in his four-year papacy: caring for migrants and denouncing corruption.

“In their grief, these two women reflect the faces of all those who, walking the streets of our cities, behold human dignity crucified.”

But rather than remain resigned to such a fate, Francis urged the faithful to have hope, as symbolised by Christ’s Resurrection.

He called for Catholics to “break down all the walls that keep us locked in our sterile pessimism, in our carefully constructed ivory towers that isolate us from life, in our compulsive need for security and in boundless ambition that can make us compromise the dignity of others.”

Saturday’s Mass included the baptism of 11 people, including two children and one woman from China.

It came just hours after Francis presided over the evocative torch-lit Good Friday procession at Rome’s Colosseum, where he repeatedly denounced the “shame” of the blood spilled by innocent children, women and migrants in the world’s conflicts, shipwrecks and other tragedies.

On Sunday, Francis will celebrate the joyful Easter Mass in a flower-filled St Peter’s Square. Thousands of people are expected to brave street closures, metal detectors and other security measures to reach the square for the Mass.