The Standard Gazette
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Pope leads Easter celebrations

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

He will then deliver a speech to Rome and to the world – the “Urbi et Orbi” address – from a balcony of St. Peter’s.

BBC says Easter is the most important festival in the Christian calendar.

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

The service was shorter than usual, which the Vatican said was in line with 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.