Pope Francis has called on Christians not to let fear and pessimism “imprison” them as he delivered his Easter message.
Speaking amid tight security at the Vatican, Pope Francis said: “Let us not allow darkness and fear to distract us and control our hearts.”
The Pope’s message followed a condemnation on March 25 of the Brussels terror attacks.
Islamist violence is expected to be a prominent theme of his traditional “Urbi et Orbi” Easter message.
Many pilgrims cancelled their planned trips to Rome in the wake of the violence in Brussels, but St Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican was packed when Pope Francis celebrated mass on March 26.
Pope Francis entered a darkened basilica with just a single candle guiding him. As he reached the altar, the basilica’s floodlights came on to symbolize the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Delivering his homily, Pope Francis said: “Today is the celebration of our hope. It is so necessary today.”
The lengthy vigil service also included a papal baptism for 12 adults hailing from China, South Korea and other countries around the world.
On Easter Day, Francis will preside over Easter Mass and offer his annual Easter blessing.
On March 25, he denounced the “terrorist acts committed by followers of some religions which profane the name of God and which use the holy name to justify their unprecedented violence”.
Meanwhile, Vatican officials distributed sleeping bags to 100 homeless people.
The police presence in the streets around the Vatican has been stepped up this year, as more pilgrims than usual are expected after Pope Francis declared a jubilee year for the Catholic Church, calling it a “Holy Year of Mercy”.