This Holy Thursday, Pope Francis has praised all the good and selfless priests worldwide.
Last year, the Pope visited the Velletri Correctional Facility, to celebrate the Mass in Coena Domini with the Rite of the washing of the feet, beginning the Paschal Triduum.
This year, as much of the world is in lockdown to prevent against further spreading of coronavirus, claiming thousands and thousands of deaths worldwide, and already more than 18,000 in Italy itself, the Pope’s schedule has changed.
He did not do the traditional Chrism Mass this morning, nor not make his annual outing for the Washing of the Feet.
Pope Francis instead celebrated in a nearly empty St. Peter’s Basilica the Mass in Coena Domini without that rite.
During his homily, he spoke about priests and praised the countless who are selfless, even to the point of giving their lives.
The Holy Father lamented the more than 60 priests have died in Italy from COVID19.
“Have courage,” the Pope encouraged priests, as the Lord is always with them. Francis praised those who travel to far off lands, even often giving their lives, and sometimes, to hardly ever be remembered by name.
He also remembered those who serve villages, who may not be well known to the world, but to their parishioners. The Holy Father applauded how they know the people they serve personally, and again — as he has in the past–reminded that priests should even try to know the names of the dogs of their parishioners.
The Holy Father lamented how some bad priests have made the lives of the others often subject to insult and disrespect, decrying the abuse crisis.
The Pope expressed his disappointment that the Chrism Mass could not take place in the Basilica this Holy Week, and how he wishes, if the situation were to get better, that it could perhaps be done before Pentecost (otherwise, next year).
Here is ZENIT’s working translation of Pope Francis’ off-the-cuff homily:
Holy Mass of the “Supper of the Lord” in Saint Peter’s Basilica
At 6:00 pm the afternoon, of March 10, 2020, Holy Thursday, at the Altar of the Chair, the Holy Father Francis presided over the Holy Mass “in the Supper of the Lord,” which marked the beginning of the Paschal Triduum.
The initial procession unfolded from the Altar of the Confession to that of the Chair, passing by the side of the “Altar of Saint Joseph.” In the course of the celebration, given the ongoing health crisis, the rite of the washing of the feet and the Offertory procession did not take place. Moreover, the repose of the Most Holy Sacrament was omitted.
Placed in the Vatican Basilica were the image of the Virgin Salus Populi Romani and the Crucifix of Saint Marcellus.
Here is a translation of the transcription of the text of the off-the-cuff homily that Pope Francis gave after the proclamation of the Holy Gospel.
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The Holy Father’s Homily
The Eucharist, Service, Anointing.
The reality we are living today in this celebration: the Lord who desires to remain with us in the Eucharist. And we always become tabernacles of the Lord; we bear the Lord with us, to the point that He Himself says to us that, if we do not eat His Body and do not drink His Blood, we will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven. This is a mystery, of the bread and wine, of the Lord with us, in us, inside us.
Service. It is the gesture that is the condition to enter in the Kingdom of Heaven — to serve, yes, all. However, in that exchange of words that the Lord had with Peter (Cf. John 13:6-9), He makes him understand that to enter in the Kingdom of Heaven we must let the Lord serve us — that the Servant of God be our Servant. And this is difficult to understand. If I don’t let the Lord be my Servant, that the Lord wash me; make me grow, forgive me, I will not enter in the Kingdom of Heaven.
And the priesthood. Today I want to be close to priests, to all priests, from the last ordained to the Pope. We are all priests. The Bishops, all . . . We are anointed, anointed by the Lord; anointed to do the Eucharist, anointed to serve.
Today there is no Chrism Mass — I hope we will be able to have it before Pentecost, otherwise we will have to put it off until next year; however, I cannot let this Mass pass without remembering the priests, the priests that offer their life for the Lord, the priests that are servants. In these days, more than sixty have died here, in Italy, in giving attention to the sick in hospitals, and also with the doctors, the men and women nurses . . . They are “the saints next door,” priests that, serving, gave their life. And I think of those that are far away. Today I received a letter from a priest, a Franciscan, a prison chaplain, far away, who recounts how he is living this Holy Week with the detainees. There are priests that go far away to take the Gospel and die there. A Bishop said that the first thing he did, when he arrived in these mission posts, was to go to the cemetery, to the tombs of priests who departed from life there, young priests because of the local plague [local sicknesses]: they were not prepared, they did not have the antibodies. No one knows their name: they are anonymous priests. Country priests, who are the parish priest of four, five, seven hamlets, in the mountains, and they go from one to the other, and know the people . . . Once one of them told me that he knew the names of all the country people. “Really?” I said to him. And he said to me: “Even the name of the dogs!” They know everyone — priestly closeness. <They are> good, good priests.
Today I carry you in my heart and bring you to the altar. Slandered priests — it happens so often today. They cannot go on the street because awful things are said to them, in reference to the tragedy we have lived with the discovery of priests that have done awful things. Some have said to me that they cannot go out of the house as clergymen because they are insulted, <but> they continue… Priests sinners, who together with the Bishops and the Pope, sinner, do not forget to ask for forgiveness, and they learn to forgive, because they know they are in need of asking for forgiveness and of forgiving. We are all sinners. Priests that suffer crises, who do not know what to do, they are in darkness . . .
Today all of you, brother priests, are with me on the altar, you, the consecrated. I say to you only one thing: do not be headstrong like Peter. Let your feet be washed. The Lord is your Servant; He is close to you to give you the strength, to wash your feet.
And so, with this awareness of the need to be washed, be great forgivers! Forgive! Have a great generous heart in forgiving. It is the measure with which we will be measured. As you have forgiven, so you will be forgiven: the same measure. Do not be afraid to forgive. Sometimes doubts come . . . Look at Christ [he looks at the Crucifix]. The forgiveness of all is there. Be courageous, even in risking, in forgiving, in consoling. And if you cannot give a sacramental pardon in that moment, at least give the consolation of a brother that accompanies and leaves the door open so that that person returns.
I thank God for the grace of the priesthood; we all thank Him. I thank God for you priests. Jesus loves you very much! He only asks you to let your feet be washed.[Original text: Italian] [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]