Faithful flock to Vatican as Pope celebrates Easter Sunday

Easter Sunday

Allan Harris
April 16, 2017 - 5:27 am
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VATICAN CITY (AP) -- Tens of thousands of faithful are braving heavy security checks for a place in St. Peter's Square in the Vatican as Pope Francis celebrates Easter Sunday Mass.

Many more tourists, pilgrims and Romans are flocking to the cobblestone square, decorated with colorful spring flowers, to hear Francis deliver the "Urbi et Orbi" - his Easter message "to the city and to the world" - from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica.

Potted hyacinths, tulips and daffodils, as well as bouquets of pink roses, were arranged in neat rows on the steps leading to the imposing church.

Security, already deployed in Holy Week ceremonies, included armed police positioned on rooftops and metal detectors.

 

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) -- Millions of Orthodox Christians around the world have celebrated Easter in overnight services and "holy fire" from Jerusalem.

This year the Orthodox churches celebrate Easter on the same Sunday when Roman Catholics and Protestants mark the holy festival. The Western Christian church follows the Gregorian calendar, while the Eastern Orthodox uses the older Julian calendar. The two Easters are often weeks apart.

In predominantly Orthodox Romania, Patriarch Daniel urged Christians to bring joy to "orphans, the sick, the elderly the poor... and the lonely." Late Saturday, Orthodox cleric transported the holy light from Jerusalem by plane and it was then flown to other churches around the country.

There are Orthodox churches in Greece, Russia, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Moldova and elsewhere.

VATICAN CITY (AP) -- Pope Francis on Saturday denounced how migrants, the poor and marginalized see their "human dignity crucified" every day through injustice and corruption, and urged the faithful in an Easter Vigil message to keep hope alive for a better future.

Francis presided over the solemn late-night ceremony in St. Peter's Basilica at a time of heightened security fears following a spate of Islamic-inspired attacks and tensions over Europe's migrant influx.

Security was particularly tight, part of the heavier-than-usual safety measures that have been deployed around the world for Holy Week activities, particularly following the twin Palm Sunday attacks on Coptic churches in Egypt that killed at least 45 people.

Holding a single candle, Francis processed down the basilica's center aisle, symbolizing the darkness that fell after Jesus' crucifixion on Good Friday. When Francis reached the altar, the basilica's floodlights turned on, symbolizing the light of Christ's resurrection.

In his homily, Francis recalled the biblical scene of two women approaching Jesus' tomb and said their desolation over his death can be seen every day in the faces of women whose children have been victims of poverty, exploitation and injustice.

"We can also see the faces of those who are greeted with contempt because they are immigrants, deprived of country, house and family," he said.

Others are victims of paralyzed bureaucracies and corruption "that strips them of their rights and shatters their dreams," the pope said, echoing two themes he has emphasized in his four-year papacy: caring for migrants and denouncing corruption.

"In their grief, these two women reflect the faces of all those who, walking the streets of our cities, behold human dignity crucified."

But rather than remain resigned to such a fate, Francis urged the faithful to have hope, as symbolized by Christ's resurrection.

He called for Catholics to "break down all the walls that keep us locked in our sterile pessimism, in our carefully constructed ivory towers that isolate us from life, in our compulsive need for security and in boundless ambition that can make us compromise the dignity of others."

Saturday's late-night service included the baptism of 11 people, including two children and one woman from China.

It came just hours after Francis presided over the evocative torch-lit Good Friday procession at Rome's Colosseum, where he repeatedly denounced the "shame" of the blood spilled by innocent children, women and migrants in the world's conflicts, shipwrecks and other tragedies.

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On Sunday, Francis will celebrate the joyful Easter Mass in a flower-filled St. Peter's Square. Thousands of people are expected to brave street closures, metal detectors and other security measures to reach the square for the Mass

 

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