The Resurrection is depicted in this 18th-century painting by American artist Benjamin West. Easter, the chief feast in the liturgical calendars of all Christian churches, commemorates Christ’s resurrection from the dead. Easter is celebrated April 17 this year. (CNS artwork/Benjamin West, Bridgeman Images)

Dear Friends,

Two years ago during these sacred days of Lent, Holy Week and Easter, our world turned upside down. A strange virus invaded our lives in a way that none of us had ever before experienced nor could have imagined. Life came to a standstill and even our churches closed their doors as we sought to protect one another from the virus’ deadly grip.

In the face of such obstacles, we held on desperately to our faith, confronting the message of Good Friday and the Cross of Jesus like never before. As we struggled to discover the blessings of Easter, the pain, uncertainty and fear of those days eventually gave way to the life and hope won for us through Christ’s Resurrection.

Today, as we find ourselves at last emerging from the darkness of a global pandemic, our world is still turned upside down as our brothers and sisters in Ukraine suffer the ravages of war. This time, however, the source of our global concern is not an unknown virus. The source of this war, and others like it, is an all too familiar scourge rooted in sin – in pride, envy, greed and the absence of any fear of God that has led to a blatant disrespect of human life made in the image and likeness of the same almighty being.

As we have done countless times before in the face of suffering and pain, these sacred days beckon us to turn to the only place that enables our broken world and lives to find forgiveness, healing, hope and peace: the Paschal Mystery – the Easter miracle – the promise won for us through the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus!

Pope Francis so providentially spoke to the ongoing struggles that continue to confront our world in his Easter message shared a year ago.

The Holy Father said, “In the midst of this complex reality, the Easter message speaks concisely of the event that gives us the hope that does not disappoint: ‘Jesus who was crucified has risen.’ It speaks to us not about angels or ghosts, but about a man, a man of flesh and bone, with a face and a name: Jesus. The Gospel testifies that this Jesus, crucified under Pontius Pilate for claiming he was the Christ, the Son of God, rose on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, just as he had foretold to his disciples … In so doing, Jesus took upon himself our weakness, our infirmities, even our death. He endured our sufferings and bore the weight of our sins … His wounds are the everlasting seal of his love for us. All those who experience a painful trial in body or spirit can find refuge in these wounds and, through them, receive the grace of the hope that does not disappoint.”

Brothers and sisters, for all that we have experienced throughout the journey of our lives, the grace of God, indeed, does not disappoint! And that grace abounds through the presence of the Risen Jesus dwelling in the hearts of his disciples – all of us who have been baptized into his life, death and resurrection. In countless numbers of ways, your openness to the love and mercy of God has enabled you to give hope to many – from the care that you have offered to those burdened by the pandemic, to your material support of those suffering because of the war in Ukraine, to your daily efforts to build up your parishes and to proclaim the gospel message through your words and especially your gestures of love and service.

One of the greatest signs of the grace of God at work in our world is the presence of those who have responded to the Lord’s call and opened their hearts to the life giving waters of Baptism and a determination to walk in the footsteps of Jesus. On Holy Saturday night, 107 catechumens and candidates from throughout the Diocese of Scranton will be baptized into the life, death and resurrection of Jesus and presented for full communion in the Catholic Church. These catechumens and candidates – our relatives, neighbors and friends – join with tens of thousands of catechumens and candidates from around the world to publically profess their faith in Jesus Christ and to assume their place in his body, the Church. Their lives and faith affirm the reality of the living God continually working in and through his sons and daughters.

During this Holy Week, I pray that we will all come to appreciate more deeply than ever the fact that we are indeed blessed in more ways than we might believe or imagine. May we trust in God’s promise to sustain us and dispel our deepest fears. And may we open our hearts to the risen Jesus and allow him to fill them with his love and peace.

This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad!

Faithfully yours in the Risen Christ,

Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, D.D., J.C.L.
Bishop of Scranton

Pope Francis breathes on chrism oil, a gesture symbolizing the infusion of the Holy Spirit, as he celebrates Holy Thursday chrism Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican April 14, 2022. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – In the life of every Christian, but especially of priests, God’s love and forgiveness are the greatest rewards, and any attempt to seek one’s own glory plays into the hands of the devil, Pope Francis said.

With some 1,800 priests concelebrating and renewing the promises made at their ordinations, Pope Francis celebrated the chrism Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica April 14.

“There is no recompense greater than friendship with Jesus,” the pope told them. “There is no peace greater than his forgiveness. There is no greater price than his precious blood, and we must not allow it to be devalued by unworthy conduct.”

The chrism Mass was canceled in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and ongoing restrictions in 2021 meant that only 75 priests from the Diocese of Rome could represent all their brothers at the Mass with their bishop, the pope.

Although masks are still required for most people while indoors in Italy and at the Vatican, Pope Francis’ 2022 Holy Week and Easter services were again open to the public. The Vatican said about 2,500 laity joined the pope, cardinals, bishops and priests for the chrism Mass.

Still having difficulty walking, Pope Francis processed to the main altar from the back of the basilica rather than walking the entire length of the church, and he delivered his homily while seated.

Cardinals Mauro Gambetti, the pope’s vicar for Vatican City, Angelo De Donatis, his vicar for Rome, Giovanni Battista Re, dean of the College of Cardinals, and Leonardo Sandri, vice dean, were the principal concelebrants at the morning chrism Mass, which is named for the oils blessed during the liturgy.

After the homily and the renewal of priestly promises, deacons wheeled massive silver urns up the center aisle of the basilica to the pope for his blessing. The oils will be distributed to Rome parishes and used for the sacraments of baptism, confirmation, ordination and the anointing of the sick in the coming year.

While thousands of laypeople attended the Mass, Pope Francis’ homily was addressed to the priests, including himself and the cardinals and bishops present.

“Being priests, dear brothers, is a grace, a very great grace, yet it is not primarily a grace for us, but for our people,” he told them.

“The Lord is inviting us to be faithful to him, to be faithful to his covenant and to let ourselves be loved and forgiven by him,” he said. “They are invitations addressed to us, so that in this way we can serve, with a clear conscience, the holy and faithful people of God.”

Pope Francis suggested that at the end of each day, “we do well to gaze upon the Lord, and to let him gaze upon our hearts and the hearts of all those whom we have encountered.”

That “examen,” he said, is not meant to be “an accounting of our sins,” but an act of contemplation by which “we review our day with the eyes of Jesus, seeing its graces and gifts and giving thanks for all that he has done for us.”

Obviously, he said, sins and temptations also will show themselves, and recognizing them is the only way to reject them.

Pope Francis pointed particularly to the temptation of the “idols” of spiritual worldliness, exaggerated pragmatism and functionalism, all of which are really about “glorifying ourselves” and not God, he said.

“We need to remember that the devil demands that we do his will and that we serve him, but he does not always ask us to serve him and worship him constantly,” the pope said. “Receiving our worship from time to time is enough for him to prove that he is our real master and that he can feel like a god in our life and in our heart.”

“Seeking our own glory robs us of the presence of Jesus, humble and humiliated, the Lord who draws near to everyone, the Christ who suffers with all who suffer, who is worshipped by our people, who know who his true friends are,” Pope Francis said. “A worldly priest is nothing more than a clericalized pagan.”

Another “hidden idolatry,” he said, is devotion to numbers or statistics, which “can depersonalize every discussion and appeal to the majority as the definitive criterion for discernment.”

But “this cannot be the sole method or criterion for the church of Christ,” he said. “Persons cannot be ‘numbered,’ and God does not ‘measure out’ his gift of the Spirit.”

With functionalism, he said, mystery is ignored, and efficiency becomes the measure for everything.

“The priest with a functionalist mindset has his own nourishment, which is his ego,” he said. “In functionalism, we set aside the worship of the Father in the small and great matters of our life and take pleasure in the efficiency of our own programs.”

The Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, celebrates the Chrism Mass on April 12, 2022, at the Cathedral of Saint Peter in Scranton. For the first time since 2019, all priests, deacons, and laity were invited to participate in the Mass in person. (Photo/Mike Melisky)

SCRANTON — Great rejoicing marked the Solemn Pontifical Chrism Mass on Tuesday of Holy Week on April 12 in the Cathedral of Saint Peter as the celebration returned to its rightful grandeur for the first time in three years due to the global pandemic.

Sincere joy resonated in the voice of Bishop Joseph C. Bambera, who served as principal celebrant and homilist, as he welcomed those in attendance to the “glorious Mass of the Chrism,” in which he joined his brother priests in renewing their sacred vows of ordination in ministry to the people of the Diocese of Scranton.

The annual gathering of the priests of the Diocese — customarily the largest of its kind each year — celebrates their brotherhood and shared divine vocation, usually before a full Cathedral congregation.

Not since 2019 had Saint Peter’s witnessed the normalcy of the ancient traditional rite, which was adapted greatly due to COVID-19, including last year’s Chrism Mass when the diocesan priests were the only ones in attendance and compelled to practice social distancing.

This year, the throng of vested concelebrants, composed of nearly all the ordained priests ministering in the Diocese, occupied the front pews of the venerable Cathedral with a large congregation of lay faithful seated behind, nearing filling most pews of the Mother Church of Scranton.

Holding to age-old tradition, the Holy Oils used during the conferral of sacraments throughout the Church year were blessed. They include the Sacred Chrism, the Oil of the Sick, and the Oil of Catechumens, which are used in the celebration of Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Orders, the Anointing of the Sick, and the Rites of the Catechumenate. During the Mass, priests and deacons, along with lay representatives from Diocesan parishes acknowledged the Bishop’s role as the unifying symbol for Church governance and pastoral guidance.

“It has been a long time since we’ve had the opportunity to gather for this Chrism Mass as we do today, with all of us — priests, deacons, those in consecrated life and lay faithful — offering a powerful witness to our world of the abiding presence of God that alone is capable of overcoming the darkness of suffering and death with the life and hope of Christ,” Bishop Bambera began his homily. “Like so many, we have endured more than we could have ever imagined and are here today solely by the grace of God.”

Referring to the Gospel from Saint Luke which was proclaimed at the Mass, in which the prophet Isaiah defines the character of Jesus’ ministry, Bishop Bambera recounted how Jesus announces good news to those who are poor, blind, in captivity and oppressed.

“The very prophetic vision of hope that he proclaims for all who are burdened and oppressed becomes a reality precisely because of his own experience of suffering and pain in his times,” he said. “My friends, and especially my brother priests, I implore you: do not let the darkness of these challenging days prevail! Our hope and peace is found in the very midst of the lives that we lead and the compassion and mercy that we extend to our suffering brothers and sisters and that they, in turn, impart to us.”

The Bishop continued by asking the priests to consider the hope that they bring to the lives they are blessed to encounter each day.

“In addition to sharing the sacramental life of our Church so generously, your presence in and among the lives of our people is far more deeply appreciated than you might ever believe or imagine,” Bishop Bambera stated, noting he is always impressed and buoyed by comments made to him by faithful throughout the diocese on his many travels regarding their parish priests.

Comments, Bishop Bambera related, that speak so much about parishioners’ admiration, love and even concern for their local shepherds.

“My brother priests, thank you for your ministry. Thank you for your service and for the witness of your faith,” the Bishop offered. “For all of the hope that you have given, the love that you have shared and the faith in Christ that you have imparted, even while struggling to carry your own crosses, your lives and your ministry are by far the most eloquent homily that can be shared this day.”

Prior to the Mass, Monsignor Michael Delaney, pastor of Our Lady of the Snows Parish in Clarks Summit, aptly summed up the overall enthusiasm shared by his fellow priests upon the opportunity to once again come together as a fraternity for the auspicious occasion.

“It is so wonderful to gather around the table of the Lord and then be able to gather for a dinner together in brotherhood and celebrate our call as priests in ministering to God’s people,” Monsignor Delaney expressed.

Commenting on the joyful reunion of his priest brethren after such a notable absence, Monsignor Joseph Quinn, pastor of the South Scranton parishes of Saint John Neumann and Saint Paul of the Cross, remarked, “It has been the longest retreat I’ve ever been on. Hopefully, it has created us all for the better.”


Workers from Sordoni Construction are close to completing renovations on the new worship space for Most Holy Trinity Parish in Cresco as seen on April 6, 2022.

CRESCO – After two decades of dreaming and planning, the finishing touches are finally being put on a new worship space for Most Holy Trinity Parish in Monroe County.

In anticipation of completing work on the new church in the coming weeks, The Catholic Light was invited to highlight the renovation project in its final days. An opening Mass is currently being planned for May.

The new worship space for Most Holy Trinity is located in the former gymnasium/auditorium of the now-closed Monsignor McHugh School located on Route 390 in Cresco.

“It is overwhelming beautiful,” parishioner Cheryl Lynott of Paradise Township said.

Lynott is a 1977 graduate of Pocono Central Catholic High School, which used the same building. She is one of several parishioners who not only serves on the parish’s building and grounds committee – but also has invested countless hours into the building project.

“Our volunteers are the most talented group of people you would ever hope to find,” she explained. “It is a blessing to be part of building this church. I really look at it that way.”

Workers put mosaic tile in place which will become the area for the baptismal font at Most Holy Trinity Parish.

Sordoni Construction is handling all of the renovations inside the former gym, but parishioners volunteered to create everything else the parish needs. That includes the confessionals, bathrooms, office space and more on the exterior of the gym.

“I just do whatever needs to be done,” parishioner Walt Dill of Blakeslee explained. “Normally I’m here six to eight hours a day, five days a week and then I’m here on Saturdays and on Sundays if I’m needed.”

Michael Ziobro of Canadensis retired from his full-time job in 2020. Since that time, participating in the church construction project has taken up the bulk of his days.

“It is a labor of love. We’re here every day,” Ziobro explained. “We can’t wait for opening day.”

Most Holy Trinity Parish was created upon the consolidation of Saint Ann Parish, Tobyhanna; Saint Mary of the Mount Parish, Mount Pocono; and Saint Bernadette Parish, Canadensis.

The new worship space brings together many aspects of those three churches. For example, the pews in the new church all come from the former Saint Mary and Saint Ann church buildings. Likewise, the Stations of the Cross and the stained glass windows from the former parishes have also been included in the new construction.

Workers place some of the last floor tiles in the main body of the new worship space for Most Holy Trinity Parish (Photos/Eric Deabill)

“To see all the little bits of all the different churches in here, it’s wonderful,” Ziobro said.  “I went to Saint Mary’s all the time, so it’s nice to see those windows and to see the Stations of the Cross and see some of the pews going in.”

In actuality, several other churches/chapels will be represented when the opening Mass takes place. In addition to the three closed churches, items from the former Villa of Our Lady Retreat Center, Our Lady of Fatima Church in the Promised Land area, Saint Joan of Arc, a mission church of Saint Mary’s in Pocono Summit, Monsignor McHugh School and the Cathedral of Saint Peter in Scranton are also being included.

“It was just nice to see everything come together,” Noah Stretch, Project Superintendent of Sordoni Construction, said.

Stretch and his employees have been working on-site since September 2021. They battled not only the COVID-19 pandemic but supply issues.

“Somehow we made it work,” he explained. “We had a good crew that right out of the gate, they were ordering everything early. We had professionals here and they knew that they had to get everything ordered so we could be ready in time.”

Ron Yanchak, a Sordoni Construction employee, glues a Cross in place on the top of one of the Stations of the Cross.

Stretch credits not only his team, but also the dedication of the parishioners to get this project to the finish line.

“You can tell that their heart is into it. They are building with you. We don’t see it like this too often. It was really nice to see,” he explained.

The desire to create a new worship space for Most Holy Trinity Parish dates back to the pastoral tenure of Monsignor Arthur J. Kaschenbach and now-Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz. Between raising money, finding a location, and changing plans several times, it has not been an easy road.

“There were like 27 plans,” Ziobro said jokingly. “When the school closed, it focused us down to one plan. We had already been here for eight or ten years in the gymnasium with folding chairs. You’d take them down on the weekend because the school was still open.”

“I always saw the finish line. I always knew that it would come about, maybe not necessarily in this form, but I always saw the finish line. There was never any doubt in my mind that it would get done,” Dill added.

Cheryl Lynott of Paradise Township is one of many parishioners who is helping to renovate the new worship space for Most Holy Trinity Parish.

Lynott says parishioners are eager to see the finished worship space. There will even be coffee bar named ‘Trinity Treats’ in the narthex area of the new worship space.

She believes the typical reaction will be something like the following.

“I can sum it up by the response of my partner in the Capital Campaign. We have been doing the deposits for three years and she had not seen it so I snuck her in. She started to cry,” Lynott said.

More than 200 students received the Bishop’s Youth Award at Saint Jude Parish in Mountain Top on April 4, 2022. (Photo/Dan Gallagher)

WILLIAMSPORT – Nearly 600 young adults in the Diocese of Scranton recently received honors for providing service to their parishes, schools and communities.

The Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, handed out the Bishop’s Youth Award to 596 recipients at four different Masses beginning on March 28. The Masses took place in East Stroudsburg, Scranton, Mountain Top and Williamsport.

“These young people have been of service to their parish or community in a multitude of ways and are very worthy of this recognition,” Jacki Douglas, Director of Word and Lifelong Faith Formation in the Diocesan Office for Parish Life, said.

Since 1996, the Bishop’s Youth Award has recognized young people in eighth and 12th grade for their exemplary practice of faith and for their commitment to serve others. Pastors, parish life coordinators, principals, faith formation directors or youth ministers nominate students for the award.

“I think that the awards being given out this year are particularly significant. We’re just ending two very challenging years in our world, our society, our church and our families,” Bishop Bambera said. “You have all made a difference in somebody else’s life. I know I speak for your families and your pastors in saying how proud I am of all of you.”

Award recipients stand during Mass at Saint Joseph the Worker Parish in Williamsport April 6, 2022. (Photo/Eric Deabill)

Luz Pomaquiza, a 12th grade student and parishioner of Saint Matthew Parish in East Stroudsburg, received the award for serving as a reader, altar server, choir member and youth group participant at her church.

“I like being able to help anyway I can,” Pomaquiza said. “You grow as a person as well.”

Zyrus Hernandez also received the Bishop’s Youth Award from Saint Matthew Parish. He helps serve meals to those in need and participates in parish fundraisers.

“It’s very humbling,” Hernandez explained of his time serving the less fortunate. “It was really an eye opener for me. It definitely allowed me to see the world differently and allowed me to see it through other people’s eyes. I’m going off to college this September and I plan on continuing service through my college’s service program and its ministry programs.”

Michelle Pierce, a senior of Saint John Neumann High School in Williamsport and parishioner of Resurrection Parish in Muncy, also received the award.

“It’s really gratifying to help other people and those who are in need,” she said of her efforts to collect food for the Ronald McDonald House in Danville.

“I feel blessed every single day that I can get the things I need. I have clothes, I have food, I have shelter, but I think it’s so important to give other people those basic needs as well.”

Award recipients serve as gift bearers at Saint Matthew Parish in East Stroudsburg March 28, 2022. (Photo/Shannon Kowalski)

Brendan Dincher received the Bishop’s Youth Award for teaching elementary students about their faith at Saint Joseph the Worker Parish in Williamsport.

“Before COVID, we used to teach a class for fifth and sixth graders about the faith and lead them on service projects to let them get out there and enjoy it,” he said.

Each of the students receiving the Bishop’s Youth Award gets a special pin as a symbol of the way they have contributed to the mission of our Church by touching the lives of others in real and meaningful ways.

Michael Grandzol, an eighth grade student at Saint Jude School in Mountain Top, received his Bishop Youth Award for his participation in boy scouts, as well being an altar server and partaking in the music ministry at Saint Jude School.

“In Scripture, Jesus washed the feet of the disciples and he said ‘serve other people’ and I feel like that is what I’m doing being an altar server or whatever else I do,’ Grandzol explained. “I know I’ve gotten a lot out of the Church.”

Erin Barno, a senior at Crestwood High School, says her service efforts have helped her remain a morally grounded person.

“A lot of times you see young people worship things on social media or worship things on the internet and that is not really what we should be looking towards. We should be looking towards our relationship with God and strengthening our connection with him,” she explained.

Molly White, who serves as student body president at Holy Cross High School, received the Bishop’s Youth Award for her service efforts as well.

“When you start to serve others, the way Jesus served others, that is when you really start to connect to your faith on a deeper level,” she explained.

“Actions speak louder than words and I think through service, that is one of the best actions you can take to living out your faith. It’s a humbling action, it’s a grounding action!”

Bishop Joseph C. Bambera begins Palm Sunday Mass in the Cathedral Prayer Garden on Wyoming Avenue. (Photos/Mike Melisky)

SCRANTON – The Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, began Holy Week by serving as principal celebrant and homilist at a Pontifical Mass of Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion at the Cathedral of Saint Peter on April 10.

Hundreds of people attended the service, which was broadcast live on CTV: Catholic Television of the Diocese of Scranton.

“How very much we need this Holy Week to help us face the struggles, the pain, the disappointment, the fear and the anxieties engulfing our lives and our world these days and to take them to the only place where they can be transformed into hope,” Bishop Bambera said. “That place, brothers and sisters, is at the foot of the Cross of Jesus.”

Noting the difficulties of the COVID-19 pandemic for the last two years as well as the most recent War in Ukraine, the bishop said, “Our world and our lives just can’t seem to catch a break.”

Palm Sunday, or Passion Sunday, is when the Church remembers Christ’s entrance into Jerusalem. It is the beginning of Holy Week, the most solemn week in the Church’s liturgical year.

“Our willingness to humbly turn to Jesus as the only source of our true and lasting hope has the power to open our lives to the mystery of God’s saving grace and his promise of life and peace,” the bishop added.

For the first time since 2019, the Pontifical Mass for Palm Sunday began in the Cathedral Prayer Garden on Wyoming Avenue. It was followed by a solemn procession to the Cathedral Church.

Two children hold palms during Mass at the Cathedral. Palm Sunday is the day in which the Church remembers Christ’s entrance into Jerusalem.

Inside, the faithful heard the Passion from the Gospel of Luke – a version that Bishop Bambera said explains the extraordinary compassionate and loving nature of Jesus.

“Only in Saint Luke’s Gospel does Jesus heal the severed ear of the high priest’s servant. Only in Luke, struggling under the weight of the Cross, does Jesus stop to console the women of Jerusalem who grieve for themselves and their children and only in Luke’s Passion story do we hear Jesus pray for his executioners and promise paradise to the penitent thief crucified with him,” the bishop said.

Because Jesus is both compassionate and merciful, the bishop encouraged all people to draw closer to Him this Holy Week.

“Jesus is found with all who suffer for he knows the paths they- and we – trod because he made them his own,” he said.

Pope Francis holds palm fronds as he celebrates Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican April 10, 2022. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Jesus obeyed the most challenging of commandments: to love one’s enemies; and he invites humanity to do the same by breaking a vicious cycle of evil, sorrow and hatred with love and forgiveness, Pope Francis said on Palm Sunday.

“As disciples of Jesus, do we follow the master, or do we follow our own desire to strike back?” he asked in his homily April 10.

Pope Francis began Holy Week with Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter’s Square with an estimated 50,000 people – the first time large numbers of people could participate since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic two years ago.

He also made a heartfelt appeal for a cease-fire by warring parties and the start of a “real negotiation,” even if it requires “some sacrifice for the good of the people.”

“What kind of victory will it be to plant a flag on a pile of rubble?” he said after the Mass and before leading the Angelus prayer. “Put down the weapons. Let an Easter truce begin.”

Clearly referring to the invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces, the pope did not specifically name which conflict he was talking about, saying Christ died to be victorious over sin and death, “not over someone and against someone else.”

However, he denounced this “endless” war, which “daily places before our eyes heinous massacres and atrocious cruelty committed against defenseless civilians. Let us pray about this.”

A war aiming for victory according to the logic of the world, the pope said, “is only the way to lose.” It is better to let the victor be Jesus, who carried the cross and died to free people from evil and so life, love and peace might reign.

Because of ongoing difficulty walking and his doctor’s advice to rest, Pope Francis did not take part in the traditional procession to the obelisk in the center of the square but was driven by car to the altar before the start of the ceremony.

Dozens of young people carried palm branches, and bishops, cardinals and the pope held “palmurelli,” large woven palms. All the pilgrims in the square were given olive branches donated by Italian olive oil producers and several people also held large rainbow “peace” flags or smaller flags of Ukraine and other countries.

After blessing the palms and listening to the Gospel reading of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, the young people, bishops, cardinals and deacons processed to the steps of St. Peter’s Basilica for the main part of the Mass, which included the reading of the Passion.

In his homily, Pope Francis highlighted how Jesus “obeyed the most demanding of his commandments: that we love our enemies.”

“How often we spend time looking back on those who have wronged us! How often we think back and lick the wounds that other people, life itself and history have inflicted on us,” he said.

Instead, Jesus teaches humanity “to break the vicious circle of evil and sorrow. To react to the nails in our lives with love, to the buffets of hatred with the embrace of forgiveness,” he said.

When people resort to violence, he said, they forget about God, their father, and “about others, who are our brothers and sisters. We lose sight of why we are in the world and even end up committing senseless acts of cruelty.”

“We see this in the folly of war, where Christ is crucified yet another time,” the pope said. “Christ is once more nailed to the cross in mothers who mourn the unjust death of husbands and sons. He is crucified in refugees who flee from bombs with children in their arms. He is crucified in the elderly left alone to die; in young people deprived of a future; in soldiers sent to kill their brothers and sisters.”

If people want to see if they truly belong to Christ, “let us look at how we behave toward those who have hurt us,” the pope said.

The Lord asks people respond the way he does: by showing “compassion and mercy to everyone, for God sees a son or a daughter in each person. He does not separate us into good and bad, friends and enemies. We are the ones who do this, and we make God suffer,” the pope said.

“Brothers and sisters, in the course of this week, let us cling to the certainty that God can forgive every sin, bridge every distance and turn all mourning into dancing,” the pope said.

With Jesus, things are never over, and it is never too late, he said.

“With God, we can always come back to life. Take courage! Let us journey toward Easter with his forgiveness,” he said.

“Gazing upon our violent and tormented world, he never tires of repeating: Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”

At the end of the Mass, the pope rode in the open popemobile to wave to and greet the crowd in the square and along the long boulevard leading to the main square, again the first time since before the pandemic began.

CANTON – Inspired by the story of Goya Foods and Shannon Hasse of Texas sending 15,000 rosaries and thousands of pounds of food to Ukraine, a parishioner of Saint Michael Parish in Canton has also decided to take action.

Lynette Ambruch wrote to the President of Goya Foods offering her help in sending more rosaries to the war-torn nation. She heard back from Goya Foods and the company has agreed to ship and distribute rosaries collected by the parish!

Ambruch has extended the invitation for anyone in the Diocese to send her rosaries by April 24 to be included in the shipment.

“We love God and we’re doing what God wants us to do. We’re helping someone who needs it,” Ambruch said.

Within the first few days of putting out the call for assistance, the local jewelry maker said she has already received more than 2,000 rosaries and her phone keeps ringing.

“I even have people that aren’t Catholic contacting me. They say, ‘I’m not Catholic and I don’t have a rosary, but what can I do?’” she said. “They just want to help but just don’t know how to.”

Rosaries can be dropped off before or after Mass in any of the three beautiful churches associated with Saint Michael Parish or at the parish office through Sunday, April 24. Broken rosaries are also welcome and will be repaired prior to shipment.

Saint Michael Church, 107 N. Washington Street, Canton, is open on Sunday from 9:00 a.m. until 10:45 a.m., Saturday from 3:15 until 4:45 p.m., Monday and Wednesday from 8 a.m. until 3:30 p.m., and Thursday from 8:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m.

Saint John Nepomucene Church, 133 Exchange Street, Troy, is open on Sunday from 11:00 a.m. until 12:15 p.m. and Tuesday from 5:15 p.m. until 6:00 p.m.

Saint Aloysius Church, corner of Green Street & Division Alley, Ralston, is open on Sunday from 7:45 a.m. until 8:45 a.m.

The parish office is located at 106 N. Washington Street, Canton. Hours are Monday & Wednesday from 8 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. and Thursday from 8 a.m. until 1 p.m. There is a bowl on the front porch where donations can be placed if the office is closed.

Dozens of people gathered April 1 at Saint Lawrence Parish Hall in South Williamsport for a Lenten soup dinner to benefit those impacted by the war in Ukraine.

SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT – The Parishes of Saint Boniface and Saint Lawrence held a Lenten soup dinner April 1 which will benefit people who are suffering in Ukraine.

Fifteen meatless soups were prepared and donated by parishioners. Seventy-five guests brought their own bowls and spoons to join together at the Lenten table.

A good will offering resulted in more than $2,100 being raised.

Volunteers decorated the Saint Lawrence Parish Hall for the event and served all those who gathered between 6-8 p.m. after Stations of the Cross.

Fathers William Corcoran and Robert Antonelli spearheaded the church gathering to benefit those who are impacted by the war in Ukraine.

Some of the items recently collected in the Hazleton area to be donated to the people in Ukraine.

HAZLETON – Catholic Social Services in Hazleton, 200 W. Chapel Street, continues to serve as a collection drop-off site for material donations to help our brothers and sisters impacted by the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine. The items will be passed along to one or more organizations in Philadelphia that are providing assistance to those in need.

In conjunction with the group, “City of Hazleton Outreach to Ukraine,” Catholic Social Services is accepting nonperishable items, including dry rations, such as freeze-dried or dehydrated foods, granola or energy bars, and other non-liquid items. Baby food is also needed, but it must be in pouches and not jars.

Medical supplies and personal hygiene items, including new underwear, thermals, bras, socks, diapers, wipes, blankets, linens, pain relievers, and medical aids, such as crutches, canes, wheelchairs, walkers, are being accepted.

Donations can be made weekdays (Monday-Friday) between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.

In addition to Catholic Social Services, which is a member agency of the Greater Hazleton United Way, other collection sites include Hazleton City Hall, Northeast Counseling Services and the Lackawanna College Campus.