Pope Francis celebrated his first Easter Sunday Mass as pontiff in St. Peter's Square, packed by joyous pilgrims, tourists, and Romans and bedecked by spring flowers. Wearing cream-colored vestments, Francis strode onto the esplanade in front of St. Peter's Basilica and took his place at an altar set up under a white canopy, urging the faithful to let "those desert places in our hearts bloom." Pilgrims had already filled the square hours before the Mass began in mid-morning, and throughout the service streams of people kept flocking there for his speech and blessing, traditionally delivered after the Mass from the central balcony of the basilica.
By mid-ceremony, some 250,000 people had turned out, the Vatican said. Pope Francis made an Easter Sunday peace plea, saying conflicts have lasted too long in Syria, and between Israelis and Palestinians. Francis also urged reconciliation on the Korean peninsula, where North Korea says it has entered "a state of war" with South Korea. Before a crowd of 250,000 in St. Peter's Square he also denounced warfare and terrorism in Africa, and decried a greedy affluent world looking for "easy gain." Click for a transcript of Francis' Easter message. (Read more Pope Francis stories.)