Pope Leads Vigil at Vatican on Eve of Easter

From Times Wire Services

Marking the most solemn ceremony of the Roman Catholic calendar, Pope John Paul II led clerics in procession through a darkened St. Peter’s Basilica on Saturday, a candlelight vigil for the coming of Easter.

“Light of Christ,” a deacon intoned in Latin as John Paul bore a 4-foot-tall candle through the pitch-black basilica.

Thousands of faithful lighted their own candles as he passed, filling the darkness with glints of light.


Unlike past years, John Paul’s homily for the vigil leading up to Easter Sunday was strictly religious, making no mention of the war over Kosovo.

“To be Christians means to share personally in the death and resurrection of Christ,” he said.

“This is the faith of the church, and we are proud to profess it on the threshold of the third millennium because the Passover of Christ is the hope of the world, yesterday, today and forever,” he said.

The only hint of the Balkan bloodshed was symbolic, in the selection of faithful from many nations for the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation in this year’s ceremony that included one from Albania, as well as Cape Verde, China, France, Morocco and Hungary.

Although he has made numerous appeals for negotiations to end the crisis in Kosovo, John Paul has been publicly silent on the conflict over Easter weekend, instead stressing divine love as the hope of the world.

On Good Friday, the pope scrapped a prepared text that referred to Kosovo and deplored the triumph of “the culture of death.”


Italy’s ANSA news service suggested the pontiff might use his traditional “Urbi et Orbi” address (literally, “To the City and to the World”) to ask today for opening of a humanitarian aid corridor in Kosovo.