Francis Celebrates 1st Easter

250K pack St. Peter's Square to hear pontiff's call for peace

By Newser Editors and Wire Services

Posted Mar 31, 2013 5:54 AM CDT

(Newser) – 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.

Pope Francis, holding the pastoral staff, celebrates the Easter mass in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Sunday, March 31, 2013.   (Gregorio Borgia)
Faithful hold a heart shaped banner reading in Italian "Pope Francis we love you. Happy Easter" in St. Peter's square at the Vatican on the occasion of the celebration of the Easter mass Sunday, March...   (Andrew Medichini)
Swiss guards stand in St. Peter's square at the Vatican on the occasion of the celebration of the Easter mass Sunday, March 31, 2013. "Our daily problems and worries can wrap us up in ourselves, in sadness...   (Andrew Medichini)
Faithful crows St. Peter's Square as Pope Francis celebrates the Easter mass at the Vatican, Sunday, March 31, 2013. Pope Francis is celebrating his first Easter Sunday Mass as pontiff in St. Peter's...   (Gregorio Borgia)
People crowd St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, on occasion of the celebration of the Easter mass Sunday, March 31, 2013. Pope Francis is celebrating his first Easter Sunday Mass as pontiff in St. Peter's...   (Alessandra Tarantino)
Pope Francis leads the Easter mass in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Sunday, March 31, 2013. Pope Francis is celebrating his first Easter Sunday Mass as pontiff in St. Peter's Square, which is packed...   (Alessandra Tarantino)
Pope Francis celebrates the Easter mass in St. Peter's square at the Vatican Sunday, March 31, 2013. "Our daily problems and worries can wrap us up in ourselves, in sadness and bitterness, and that is...   (Andrew Medichini)
Pope Francis celebrates the Easter mass in St. Peter's Square at the the Vatican Sunday, March 31, 2013. "Our daily problems and worries can wrap us up in ourselves, in sadness and bitterness, and that...   (Andrew Medichini)
Pope Francis, holding the pastoral staff, celebrates the Easter mass in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Sunday, March 31, 2013. "Our daily problems and worries can wrap us up in ourselves, in sadness...   (Gregorio Borgia)
Pope Francis, holding the pastoral staff, walks past the closed icon of Jesus as he celebrates the Easter mass in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Sunday, March 31, 2013. "Our daily problems and worries...   (Gregorio Borgia)
Pope Francis, holding the pastoral staff, prays in front of the icon of Jesus as he celebrates the Easter mass in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Sunday, March 31, 2013.   (Gregorio Borgia)
Pope Francis arrives to lead a open-air easter Mass in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Sunday, March 31, 2013. Pope Francis is celebrating his first Easter Sunday Mass as pontiff in St. Peter's Square,...   (Alessandra Tarantino)
Pope Francis delivers the Urbi et Orbi message at the end of the Easter Mass in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Sunday, March 31, 2013.   (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
Pope Francis delivers the Urbi et Orbi message at the end of the Easter Mass in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Sunday, March 31, 2013.   (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
Pope Francis holds a San Lorenzo's soccer team jersey after celebrating his first Easter Mass in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Sunday, March 31, 2013.   (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
Pope Francis hugs a child after celebrating his first Easter Mass in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Sunday, March 31, 2013.   (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
People crowd St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, on occasion of the celebration of the Easter mass Sunday, March 31, 2013.   (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
Pope Francis celebrates the Easter mass on Sunday, March 31, 2013. "Our daily problems and worries can wrap us up in ourselves, in sadness and bitterness, and that is where death is," he said.   (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
Pope Francis hugs a child after celebrating his first Easter Mass in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Sunday, March 31, 2013.   (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
Pope Francis arrives in St. Peter's square at the Vatican on the occasion of the celebration of the Easter mass Sunday, March 31, 2013.   (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
Swiss guards stand in St. Peter's square at the Vatican on the occasion of the celebration of the Easter mass Sunday, March 31, 2013.   (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
Pope Francis celebrates the Easter mass in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Sunday, March 31, 2013.   (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
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