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Pope Francis celebrates his first Easter Sunday since election


Pope Francis celebrates his first Easter Sunday since his election, with an open-air Mass in St Peter’s Square at the Vatican.

The Pope will then deliver an “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, Pope Francis appealed to non-believers and lapsed Catholics to “step forward” towards God.

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

At an Easter vigil Mass in St Peter’s, Pope Francis 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. Pope Francis and the congregation held candles.

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

Pope Francis, formerly Buenos Aires Archbishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio, was elected on March 13, becoming the first non-European pope for almost 1,300 years.

He replaced Pope Benedict XVI, who held the office for eight years and became the first pontiff in more than 700 years to resign, saying he no longer had the physical strength to continue.

Pope Francis, 76, has already set a new style at the Vatican, 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.

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, Pope Francis 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 referred to the “friendship of our Muslim brothers and sisters” in the Middle East.

After Easter, Pope Francis will have to begin tackling the key issues facing the Church, such as the Vatican bureaucracy, the future of the Vatican bank and the clerical sexual abuse scandal.

Vatican watchers will be keeping a keen eye on new appointments to key positions.

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Diane is a perfectionist. She enjoys searching the internet for the hottest events from around the world and writing an article about it. The details matter to her, so she makes sure the information is easy to read and understand. She likes traveling and history, especially ancient history. Being a very sociable person she has a blast having barbeque with family and friends.