Pope Francis marked Palm Sunday in Saint Peter’s Square urging young people not to let themselves be manipulated. A large crowd turned out at the Vatican to listen to the pope’s words and receive his blessing on the first of Holy Week services leading up to Easter.
Pope Francis and cardinals dressed in red robes marked Palm Sunday with a long and solemn ceremony in Saint Peter's Square attended by a large crowd, which included many young people who turned out to celebrate the Catholic Church’s World Day of Youth.
Carrying a woven palm branch, Pope Francis first led a procession in front of Saint Peter’s Basilica to commemorate the day Jesus Christ rode into Jerusalem and was hailed as a savior, before his crucifixion five days later.
Palm fronds and olive branches surrounded the altar. In his homily, Pope Francis told young people that the temptation to silence them has always existed.
The pope said: "There are many ways to silence young people and make them invisible. Many ways to anesthetize them, to make them keep quiet, ask nothing, question nothing. There are many ways to sedate them, to keep them from getting involved, to make their dreams flat and dreary, petty and plaintive."
Pope Francis urged young people to keep shouting and not allow the older generations to silence their voices. He urged youth to be like the people who welcomed Jesus with palms rather than those who shouted for his crucifixion only days later.
Palm Sunday is the start of one of the busiest weeks for the pope in the Christian calendar. On Holy Thursday he is due to preside at two services, including one in which he will wash the feet of 12 inmates at a Rome prison to commemorate Jesus Christ's gesture of humility towards his apostles the night before he died.
On Good Friday, he is due to lead a solemn Way of the Cross procession at Rome's ancient Colosseum. Then, on Saturday night he is scheduled to lead an Easter vigil service before delivering his twice-yearly "Urbi et Orbi" message and blessing on Easter Sunday.