Pope Francis, crowd celebrating Easter in flower-bedecked Vatican Square
VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis inaugurated a celebration of Mass on Easter Sunday attended by dozens of prelates and tens of thousands of pilgrims and tourists in St. Peter’s Square, where spring flowers lit up the vast space.
Orange-red tulips, yellow sprigs of forsythia and daffodils and other colorful seasonal flowers were transported in trucks from the Netherlands on Saturday and placed in planters to decorate Vatican Square, which quickly filled with Rome residents and Holy Week visitors to the city on Sunday.
According to Vatican security services, around 45,000 people had gathered by the time morning mass began.
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 a bit weary as he recited ritual words in Latin.
A canopy at the edge of the steps in the square protected the Pope, who returned to public view 12 hours after a 2.25-hour Easter Vigil ceremony in St. Peter’s Basilica the night before.
Francis, 86, was still recovering from his bronchitis and skipped the traditional Good Friday procession at Rome’s Colosseum due to unseasonably cold nighttime temperatures.
Sunday was windy but the temperature rose quickly a day after rain and strong gusts of wind hit Rome.
At the end of the Mass, Francis was to deliver a speech that the popes give at Christmas and Easter. Known by its Latin name “Urbi et Orbi”, meaning “to the city and to the world”, the message is often used to denounce wars and injustices around the world, including religious persecution.
Francis has been generally recovering after a three-day stay in a hospital in Rome last week where he was given intravenous antibiotics for bronchitis.
He was released on April 1st.
Aside from eschewing the torchlit Stations of the Cross in the Colosseum, he has maintained a tight schedule of public appearances during Holy Week.