Pope Francis opened a celebration of Mass on Easter Sunday joined by dozens of prelates and tens of thousands of pilgrims and tourists in St Peter’s Square, where spring flowers made the vast space bright.
Orange-red tulips, yellow sprays of forsythia and daffodils, and other colourful seasonal blooms were transported in trucks from the Netherlands on Saturday and set up in planters to decorate the Vatican square, which quickly filled up with Rome residents and Holy Week visitors to the city.
Some 45,000 people had gathered by the start of the mid-morning Mass, according to Vatican security services.
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 somewhat tired as he recited ritual words in Latin.
A canopy on the edge of steps on the square sheltered the pontiff, who was back in the public eye 12 hours after a 2.25-hour long Easter vigil ceremony in St Peter’s Basilica the night before.
Still recovering from bronchitis, Francis (86) missed the traditional Good Friday procession at Rome’s Colosseum due to unseasonably cold night-time temperatures.
Sunday was breezy, but the temperature quickly rose a day after rain and strong wind gusts lashed Rome.
At the end of the Mass, Francis was set to deliver a speech that pontiffs give at Christmas and Easter.
Known by its Latin name, “Urbi et Orbi”, which means “to the city and to the world”, the message is frequently an occasion to decry wars and injustices around the globe, including religious persecution.
Francis has mostly recovered following a three-day stay last week at a Rome hospital where he was treated with intravenous antibiotics for bronchitis.
He was discharged on April 1.
Except for forgoing the Colosseum Way of the Cross torch-lit procession, he has stuck to a heavy schedule of Holy Week public appearances.