The head of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Francis, Sunday, urged Christians the world over, not to abandon their faith in the face of adversity.
Pope Francis, who addressed faithful at St Peter’s Square to mark the Easter, also celebrated an open-air mass.
Easter has special significance for Christians because it marks the resurrection of Jesus Christ after his crucifixion.
This year’s celebration fell on the same day for Catholics and the Orthodox, a special occasion celebrated with Byzantine hymns.
“In this land of pain, of tragedies, amid so many calamities, the faith in the resurrected Christ gives us a meaning, and allows us to look beyond,” the Pontiff told worshippers.
St. Peter’s Square was decorated with some 35,000 flowers and plants from the Netherlands.
Dozens of cardinals and bishops and other high-ranking prelates were in attendance, along with tens of thousands of faithful, who were subjected to security screenings due to terrorism concerns.
In unscripted remarks, the Pope said he had a phone conversation with a sick man on Saturday and told him there was “no explanation” for his illness, but reminded him that even Jesus Christ had to suffer crucifixion.
“Nobody asks us: Are you happy about what happens in the world? Are you prepared to carry this cross?” the pontiff asked.
Easter is “more than a party with many flowers,” Pope Francis said, ending his speech with the entreaty, “As you go home today, repeat to yourselves: Christ has resurrected.”
Just as he finished his unscripted homily, heavy rain started.
After the mass, the Pope toured St Peter’s Square with the popemobile to greet the faithful, and then was due to deliver the Urbi et Orbi message – usually a call for world peace – from the central balcony of St Peter’s Basilica.
Catholics celebrate Easter on Sunday that follows the first full moon after March 21. For the Orthodox, who use the Julian rather than the Gregorian calendar, it often falls a week later.
Several rituals punctuated the Catholic run-up to Easter, including Holy Thursday’s foot-washing ceremony, which the Pope, this year performed in a prison for Mafia turncoats south-east of Rome.
On Friday, the pontiff led the Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) procession at the Colosseum. On the eve of Easter, Francis celebrated the traditional Vigil Mass in St Peter’s Basilica.
Sunday also marks the 90th birthday of Francis’ predecessor, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. He is the only Catholic Church leader in almost 600 years to have quit while in office, rather than serving as pope until death.