VATICAN CITY, March 31 (RIA Novosti) – Pope Francis led his first Easter Mass as Pontiff in St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican City on Sunday, congratulating Catholics all over the world on the holiest holiday.
Ahead of the Sunday Mass, Francis sent an Easter tweet saying “Accept the risen Jesus into your life. Even if you have been far away, take a small step towards him: he awaits you with open arms.”
The site of the Easter Mass in front of St. Peter’s Basilica was decorated in keeping with tradition with 40,000 tulips, azalea, lilies, carnations and other flowers, which have been delivered to the Vatican City from the Netherlands specially for Easter for a quarter of a century now. The floral decoration was dominated by yellow and white, the colors of the Vatican flag.
After serving his first Easter Mass, the 76-year-old Francis congratulated cardinals of the Roman Curia on the holiest Christian holiday and then rode in a white jeep around St. Peter’s Square, greeting a crowd of about 250,000 believers who had come to the Vatican from all over the world. The jeep with Francis stopped several times to allow the pontiff to hug and kiss children and disabled people.
At noon local time on Sunday, Francis appeared on the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica overlooking the square to congratulate all Catholics on Easter and deliver the traditional “Urbi et Orbi” (“to the City [of Rome] and to the World”) and Easter messages.
Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires was elected the 266th pope by the conclave of cardinals on March 13, becoming the first Latin American to lead the Catholic Church.