On Holy Saturday, Pope Francis called on the faithful to joy and hope despite personal and global political crises during the celebration of the Easter Vigil.

These crises are “boulders of death,” said the head of the Catholic Church in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Specifically, he mentioned the ruthlessness of hatred and the cruelty of war, which undermine the longing for world peace, but also selfishness and indifference. Easter would roll away those boulders, said the 87-year-old. Around 6,000 people attended the celebration to commemorate the resurrection of Jesus Christ in St. Peter’s Basilica.

According to Francis’ words, Easter is intended to encourage people and give hope: “This is the power of God: the victory of life over death, the triumph of light over darkness, the re-blooming of hope amid the rubble of failure.” After Holy Week, the Easter Vigil is an occasion for joy. “Sister, brother, may your heart burst into joy on this holy night!” said the pontiff in his sermon.

On the night before Easter Sunday, Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ after his death on the cross. At the beginning of the celebration, the Easter candle was carried in a procession through St. Peter’s Basilica in complete darkness – the darkness is said to symbolize life without faith. The candles of the priests and believers were then lit at the Easter candle to the cry “Lumen Christi” (Light of Christ).

As part of the celebration, Francis baptized eight adults. There were four Italians, two South Koreans, one Japanese and a woman from Albania.

The pontiff completed the ceremony sitting down. Francis read his sermon himself, but his voice was hoarse. On Good Friday he surprisingly decided not to take part in the Stations of the Cross in order to protect his health. On Sunday he wants to preside over Easter mass and give the blessing “Urbi et Orbi”, i.e. to the city and the world.