Pope presides at Vatican Mass leading Catholics into Easter

VATICAN CITY Sun Apr 20, 2014 12:37pm IST

Pope Francis lifts up the chalice as he leads a vigil mass during Easter celebrations at St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican April 19, 2014. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

Pope Francis lifts up the chalice as he leads a vigil mass during Easter celebrations at St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican April 19, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Alessandro Bianchi

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VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Francis on Saturday led Easter rites commemorating what Christians believe was Jesus' resurrection from the dead, and urged people to rediscover direction in their lives.

Marking the second Easter season of his pontificate, the Argentine pope said a solemn Mass before some 10,000 people in St. Peter's Basilica, the largest church in Christendom.

The immense basilica was in darkness for the start of the service to signify the darkness in Jesus' tomb between his death and resurrection.

The faithful held lit candles as the pope walked up the main aisle, and then the basilica's lights were turned on in a blaze.

Signifying the end of the penitential season of Lent, which began on March 5 with Ash Wednesday, the basilica's great bells rang out at about the mid-point of the Mass, just as a rain storm hit the Italian capital.

During Saturday night's service the pope maintained an Easter vigil tradition by baptising 10 people, including three Italian boys and eight adults aged between 34 and 58 from Italy, Belarus, Senegal, Lebanon, France and Vietnam.

In his homily, the leader of the world's 1.2 billion Roman Catholics recounted the Biblical story of how the faith of the apostles had been shaken after Jesus' death but confirmed by the women who found his tomb empty after his resurrection.

"Their faith had been utterly shaken, everything seemed over, all their certainties had crumbled and their hopes had died. But now that message of the women, incredible as it was, came to them like a ray of light in the darkness," he said.

The 77-year-old pope, wearing white vestments, urged his listeners to rediscover direction in their lives, in the same way the apostles had re-found their faith.

"Do I remember it? Have I forgotten it? Have I gone off on roads and paths that made me forget it?" he asked.

On Sunday, Francis says an Easter Sunday Mass in St. Peter's Square and delivers his twice-yearly "Urbi et Orbi" (to the city and the world) blessing and message.

A week later, on Sunday April 27, he will canonise Pope John Paul II, who reigned from 1978 to 2005, and Pope John XXIII, who was pontiff from 1958 to 1963 and called the Second Vatican Council, a landmark meeting that modernised the Church.

Hundreds of thousands of people are due to come to Rome for the canonisations, the first time two popes are be made saints simultaneously and the first canonisations of a pope since 1954.

(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Mark Trevelyan and Tom Heneghan)

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