Faithful flock to Vatican as pope celebrates Easter Sunday

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Pope Francis presided over a traditional Easter vigil ceremony in St. Peter's Basilica amid heavy security in the wake of a series of deadly terror attacks in Egypt and Europe.

"Yesterday was the latest ignoble attack on fleeing refugees", he continued.

VATICAN CITY (AP) - In an impromptu Easter Sunday speech, Pope Francis on Sunday encouraged people to hold fast in their "fearful hearts" to faith despite all the wars, sickness and hatred in the world, acknowledging that many wonder where God is amid so much evil and suffering.

Holding a single candle, Francis processed down the centre aisle of a darkened St. Peter's Basilica on Saturday, symbolizing the darkness that fell after Jesus' crucifixion on Good Friday.

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The ceremony began at 8.30 p.m., and lasted over three hours, during which a number of people were baptised and received communion.

Mass was to be followed by the traditional Urbi et Orbi blessing, to the city and the world, from the Argentine pope at around 1000 GMT (6pm Singapore).

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From the same balcony from where he first appeared to the world on the night of his election in 2013, Francis spoke of God walking "beside all those forced to leave their homelands as a result of armed conflicts, terrorist attacks, starvation and oppressive regimes".

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Without naming Venezuela, Pope Francis alluded to political and social tension in Latin America. Francis also mentioned hostilities and starvation plaguing parts of Africa.

He gestured toward the potted hyacinths, tulips and daffodils, which came from the Netherlands, and which were arranged in neat rows on the steps leading to the imposing church.

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.

Francis said Easter brings "a sign in the midst of so many calamities: a sense of looking beyond, of saying don't look to a wall, there's a horizon, there's life, there is joy".

Millions of Christians worldwide celebrate Easter
Christians around the world observed Good Friday today in preparation for Easter this coming Sunday. Volodymyr Cathedral during the ceremony of the Holy Fire in Kiev, Ukraine.

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