VATICAN CITY, MAR 26, 2005 (VIS) - At 8 this evening, in St. Peter's Basilica, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, joined by 24 cardinals, presided the Easter vigil Mass in the name of Pope John Paul. Five catechumens from Italy, Japan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Peru, received the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist during the vigil Mass.

The celebration started in the darkened atrium of St. Peter's with the blessing of the fire and lighting of the Easter candle, followed by a procession into the basilica, also dark, where participants, one by one, lit the candles they were carrying. Prior to the start of Mass, Cardinal Ratzinger, dean of the College of Cardinals, read a Message from the Holy Father who noted that, "thanks to television, I can follow the evocative Easter vigil in my apartment." He greeted everyone present and had "special thoughts" for the catechumens about to receive the sacraments.

"This night is truly extraordinary," said the Pope, "a night in which the blazing light of the Risen Christ conquers in a definitive way the power of the darkness of evil and death, and rekindles hope and joy in believers' hearts. Dear ones, guided by the liturgy, let us pray to the Lord Jesus that the world will see and recognize that, thanks to His passion, death and resurrection, what was destroyed was rebuilt, what was old became new and everything returned, more beautiful than before, to its original integrity."

Cardinal Ratzinger, in his homily, noted that the Easter vigil procession, behind the candle and towards light, symbolizes "the path of humanity who, in the nights of history, seeks light, seeks paradise, seeks true life, reconciliation among peoples, ... and universal peace."

Referring to the light of the Easter candle, he said "Christ is light; Christ is the way, the truth and the life; following Christ ... we find the just path. ... Following Christ means above all being attentive to His word. ... Man does not live by bread alone or by money or by career, he lives by the word of God, which corrects us, renews us, shows us the true sustaining values of the world and of society. The word of God is the true manna, the bread from heaven which teaches us life, how to be men and women."

"Following Christ," the cardinal affirmed, "means having compassion for the suffering, a heart for the poor; it means having the courage to defend our faith against ideologies; having trust in the Church and her interpretation and enactment of the divine Word for our current circumstances, Following Christ means loving His Church, His Mystical Body. Going forth in this manner we become little lights in the world, we destroy the darkness of history."