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 | Courtney Mares | Catholic News Agency

Pope Francis on Palm Sunday: Jesus Entered Jerusalem as a Humble King

On Palm Sunday, hundreds of priests, bishops, cardinals, and laypeople solemnly carried large palm branches in procession through St. Peter’s Square to begin the first liturgy of Holy Week.

“Dear brothers and sisters, since the beginning of Lent until now we have prepared our hearts by penance and charitable works,” Pope Francis said in a soft voice at the beginning of Palm Sunday Mass on March 24.

“Today we gather together to herald with the whole Church the beginning of the celebration of our Lord’s paschal mystery, that is to say, of his passion and resurrection.”

Speaking in St. Peter’s Square adorned with palms and greenery, the pope invited the crowd to follow in Jesus’ footsteps as he entered Jerusalem “so that being made by his grace partakers of the cross, we may have a share also in his resurrection and in his life.”

Pope Francis chose not to read the homily prepared for Palm Sunday Mass at the last minute without explanation. The 87-year-old pope, who arrived at the Mass in a wheelchair, has had aides read some of his speeches for him in recent weeks.

The pope did read the prayers for the Mass and spoke at the end of the liturgy, offering an appeal for peace in Ukraine and prayers for the victims of the terrorist attack in Moscow.

In his peace appeal, Pope Francis gave a brief reflection on the Gospel account of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem on a donkey as the Prince of Peace.

“Dear brothers and sisters, Jesus entered Jerusalem as a humble and peaceful king. Let us open our hearts to him. Only he can deliver us from enmity, hatred, violence, because he is mercy and the forgiveness of sins,” the pope said.

Palm Sunday is the only Mass of the year in which two Gospels are proclaimed. The Gospel of Mark’s account of Jesus entering Jerusalem on a donkey was read aloud at the beginning of the Mass and later the Passion of the Lord was solemnly proclaimed with a choir singing the words of the crowd.

Palm Sunday procession of hundreds of priests, cardinals, bishops, and lay people through St Peter’s Square.

— Courtney Mares (@catholicourtney) March 24, 2024

An estimated 60,000 people were at the papal Mass, according to the Vatican Gendarmes.

At the conclusion of the liturgy, Pope Francis rode through St. Peter’s Square on the popemobile greeting enthusiastic pilgrims who waved flags and cheered.

Pope Francis has a busy schedule for Holy Week. He will preside over a chrism Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica on Thursday morning before going to a women’s prison in Rome to offer Holy Thursday’s Mass of the Lord’s Supper.

The pope is also scheduled to preside over a celebration for the Passion of the Lord on Good Friday at the Vatican and lead the Stations of the Cross devotion in Rome’s Colosseum.

On Holy Saturday, Pope Francis is set to preside over the Easter Vigil liturgy, where he will baptize new Catholics. On the morning of Easter Sunday, Pope Francis will be back in St. Peter’s Square for Mass and will give the annual “urbi et orbi” Easter blessing.

At the end of Palm Sunday Mass, Pope Francis said: “And now we turn in prayer to the Virgin Mary. Let us learn from her to stay close to Jesus during the days of Holy Week, in order to arrive at the joy of the Resurrection.”