Pope Francis opened a celebration of Mass on Easter Sunday joined by dozens of prelates and tens of thousands of pilgrims and tourists in St. Peter’s Square, where spring flowers made the vast space bright.
Orange-red tulips, yellow sprays of forsythia and daffodils, and other colorful seasonal blooms were transported in trucks from the Netherlands on Saturday and set up in planters to decorate the Vatican square, which quickly filled up Sunday with Rome residents and Holy Week visitors to the city.
Some 45,000 people had gathered by the start of the mid-morning Mass, according to Vatican security services.
At the beginning of the Easter ceremony inspired by the core Christian belief that Jesus rose from the dead after his crucifixion, Francis sprinkled holy water and sounded somewhat tired as he recited ritual words in Latin.
A canopy on the edge of steps on the square sheltered the pontiff, who was back in the public eye 12 hours after a 2.25-hour long Easter vigil ceremony in St. Peter’s Basilica the night before.
Still recovering from bronchitis, Francis, 86, skipped the traditional Good Friday procession at Rome’s Colosseum due to unseasonably cold nighttime temperatures.
Sunday was breezy, but the temperature quickly rose a day after rain and strong wind gusts lashed Rome.
At the end of the Mass, Francis was set to deliver a speech that pontiffs give on Christmas and Easter. Known by its Latin name, “Urbi et Orbi,” which means to the city and to the world, the message is a frequently an occasion to decry wars and injustices around the globe, including religious persecution.
Francis has generally rebounded following a three-day stay last week at a Rome hospital where he was administered antibiotics intravenously for bronchitis. He was discharged on April 1. Except for forgoing the Colosseum Way of the Cross torch-lit procession, he has stuck to a heavy schedule of Holy Week public appearances.
The last time a pontiff missed Holy Week events was in 2005, when the ailing Pope John Paul II silently watched the Way of the Cross ritual on TV at his apartment in the Apostolic Palace. He died eight days later.
- Pope Francis