VATICAN CITY, APRIL 20, 2003 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II baptized seven adult catechumens from four continents during the Easter Vigil in St. Peter’s Basilica.
The most solemn rite of the year began at 8 p.m. Saturday in the atrium of the basilica, with the blessing of the paschal fire, while pilgrims waited in silence and in the dark under Michelangelo’s cupola, for the flame of the paschal candle to light the candles they held.
Following the long Liturgy of the Word and the homily, each of the catechumens went up to the Altar of Confession accompanied by their godfather or godmother, when the Pope called them by their baptismal name.
The seven named were Rebecca, from Tunisia; Damian, from Italy; Mariam, from Burkina Faso; Elizabeth, from Nigeria; Baron, from the United States; Jean-Pierre, from Burundi; and Hiromi, a kimono-clad young Japanese woman.
After being baptized “in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” they received a white garment, symbol of their new life freed from original sin.
The seven new Christians then went in procession to kneel before the Pope’s throne to be anointed on the forehead and receive the sacrament of confirmation.
“Sustained by the power of the Holy Spirit, you will persevere in your faith in Christ, and courageously proclaim his Gospel,” the Pope exhorted them earlier during the homily.
The Holy Father began his preaching by referring to “the extraordinary event of the Resurrection.”
“If Christ were to have remained a prisoner of the tomb, humanity and all of creation, in a certain way, would have lost their meaning,” he said.
The thought of Christ’s resurrection, as well as the baptism of the new Christians, should lead all the faithful to “an even firmer commitment to an evangelical life,” the Holy Father concluded.