Pope Celebrates Mass at "Mother of All Vigils"

Baptizes Seven Adults and Two Children

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VATICAN CITY, MARCH 31, 2002 (Zenit.org).- On Saturday night, John Paul II presided over and celebrated the Mass at the «mother of all vigils» of the liturgical year, during which he baptized nine people.

The Pontiff, who suffers from a painful arthritic right knee, was in better form than he was during Good Friday´s Stations of the Cross. He shunned his doctors´ advice to conserve his energy and decided to celebrate the Easter Vigil Mass himself instead of having a cardinal stand in.

This is a night «truly blessed,» John Paul II said during the homily, «when heaven is wedded to earth, and man is reconciled to God!»

«This is the night of nights, the night of faith and hope. While all is shrouded in darkness, God — the Light — keeps watch. With him there keep watch all who hope and trust him,» the Holy Father added.

The Pope recalled that it was also Mary´s night: «O Mary, this is truly your night! As the last lights of the Sabbath are extinguished, and the fruit of your womb rests in the earth, your heart too keeps watch! Your faith and your hope look ahead.»

«O Mother, that we too may keep watch in the silence of the night, believing and hoping in the Lord´s word,» the Holy Father prayed.

During the three-hour Vigil Mass, John Paul II baptized seven adults: five women (two Albanians, one Italian, one Japanese and one Chinese), two men (one Pole and one Congolese) and two children.

The Bishop of Rome did not celebrate Mass at Bernini´s Altar of the Confession. A provisional altar was set up so that he did not have to walk up the steps.

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