The Pope dedicated his meditation during today's general audience to reflect on the liturgical celebrations of the coming days, when Christian communities worldwide relive the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus.
"These days are particularly opportune to make more profound the conversion of our heart to him who out of love died for us," the Holy Father said in a firm but tired voice at the end of his catechesis.
The Pontiff noted that the Church on Holy Thursday remembers the last supper, when Christ instituted the Eucharist and the priesthood.
"The 'washing of the feet' reminds us that, with this gesture carried out by Jesus in the cenacle, he anticipated the supreme sacrifice of Calvary, and left us as the new law his love," he explained to the more than 10,000 pilgrims on hand in St. Peter's Square.
On Good Friday, "the Church remembers the passion and death of the Lord," John Paul II said. "The Christian assembly is invited to meditate on the evil and sin that oppress humanity and on the salvation effected by the redemptive sacrifice of Christ."
"The Word of God and some evocative liturgical rites, such as the adoration of the cross, help us to reflect on the different stages of the Passion," he said.
"Moreover, on this day Christian tradition has given life to different manifestations of popular piety. Striking among these are the penitential processions of Good Friday and the pious exercise of the 'Via Crucis,' which help to internalize the mystery of the cross," the Holy Father said.
In turn, he noted that Holy Saturday is characterized by the "great silence."
"In fact, no particular liturgies are planned on this day of expectation and prayer. Everything is silent in the churches, while the faithful, imitating Mary, prepare for the great event of the Resurrection," the Pope said.
At nightfall on Saturday begins the Easter Vigil, "the mother of all vigils" for Christians, he said.
During that celebration, "the proclamation of the resurrection bursts in the darkness of the night and the whole of created reality awakens from the sleep of death, to acknowledge the lordship of Christ."
The Pope will preside in Rome over all these triduum celebrations, which will end with the traditional blessing "urbi et orbi" (to the city of Rome and the world) on Easter Sunday.
Today, after greeting pilgrims at the general audience in 10 languages, the Holy Father spent half an hour talking to numerous people who are in Rome for Holy Week.
Although security measures were very much in evidence, Vatican sources said there are no specific threats of terrorist attacks. As he did on the last two Wednesdays, the Holy Father today was driven in an open car around St. Peter's Square greeting pilgrims.