Think of Easter and three things come to mind: bunnies, chocolate and the Pope. You can find the first two pretty well anywhere, but if it’s a sighting of the head of the Roman Catholic Church that you’re after, then Rome is the place to be. It’s the time of year with so many significant holy days in a row that the Pope is presiding over almost daily masses and blessings and pilgrims flood to the Vatican, that independent state surrounded by the city of Rome.
Please note that while the schedule of events for the 2013 Easter Week in Rome is intact, the weeks leading up to Easter are going to be extremely busy – at least as busy as Easter, if not more so – due to Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation and the election of a new pope that will follow. For more information on what will be closed in the weeks leading up to Easter during the transition, see this article on what the Pope’s resignation means for travelers.
It all begins in Saint Peter’s Square on Palm Sunday (March 24) with the Blessing of the Palms, a procession and Holy Mass at 9.30am. Thursday March 28 is Maundy (Holy) Thursday and in the Vatican Basilica there is a morning mass at 9.30am called the Chrismal Mass. (Chrism is a mix of balsam and olive oil used in some of the holy sacraments.) In the evening of that day a Papal Mass is held at 5.30pm in the church which lies outside Vatican City and yet is the mother church of the Catholic religion: the Basilica of Saint John Lateran. This is the mass of the Lord’s Supper.
Good Friday (March 29) sees another Papal Mass at the Vatican at 5pm, then, at 9.15pm, the procession of the Way of the Cross led by the Pope beginning at the Colosseum. On Holy Saturday (March 30) there is an evening mass at the Vatican at 9pm, and on Easter Sunday (March 31) the Pope holds a huge mass in St Peter’s Square at 10.15am, followed by a blessing and message at midday. So, plenty of opportunities to see the Pope, and also to see some of Rome’s grandest architecture serving its intended function and not just posing for photographs. Some of these events need tickets but many are free and open the public. The Way of the Cross is particularly spectacular.
Go to the bottom of this page for some good information on how to get tickets for Easter mass at St. Peter’s – they suggest faxing a request 6 months in advance for Easter. Here’s the link to the reservation form .