Mar 31, 2013

Pope Francis To Lead Easter Celebrations At St Peter's

Pope Francis is set to celebrate his first Easter Sunday since his election with an open-air Mass in St Peter's Square.

He will then deliver a speech to Rome and to the world - the "Urbi et Orbi" address - from a balcony of St Peter's.

Easter is the most important festival in the Christian calendar.

At an Easter vigil Mass in St Peter's, the Pope appealed to non-believers and lapsed Catholics to "step forward" towards God.

"Let the risen Jesus enter your life, welcome him as a friend, with trust: he is life! If up till now you have kept him at a distance, step forward," Pope Francis said.

"He will receive you with open arms."

At the start of the service, the basilica was kept dark to signify Jesus' tomb before what Christians believe was his resurrection. The Pope and the congregation held candles.

The service was shorter than usual, which the Vatican said was in line with Francis' preference for shorter Masses.

The Pope, formerly Buenos Aires Archbishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio, was elected on 13 March.

He is the first non-European pope for almost 1,300 years.

The BBC's David Willey reports from Rome that the 76-year-old has already set a new style at the Vatican, shortening religious services, reaching out easily to ordinary people, and expressing his thoughts in a conversational way that is easy to understand.

He has surprised many of the clerics who work at the Vatican, eating in a communal dining room with other priests and clearly finding much traditional Vatican ceremonial tedious, our correspondent says.

Rather than moving into grand papal apartments, Pope Francis has remained in a Vatican guesthouse, where he has been inviting ordinary people to morning Mass.

In the days before Easter, the Pope reached out to women and Muslims.

During a Holy Thursday Mass at a youth detention centre he washed and kissed the feet of 12 people, including two girls and two Muslims, and in a Good Friday procession he appealed to "Muslim brothers and sisters" in the Middle East.

Source: BBC News


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