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Pope makes Easter pleas for world peace

Published on NewsOK Modified: March 31, 2013 at 3:28 pm •  Published: March 31, 2013
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Earlier, wearing cream-colored vestments, Francis celebrated Mass on the esplanade in front of the basilica at an altar set up under a white canopy. He frequently bowed his head as if in silent reflection.

Francis seems to bring good weather to Rome. As has happened on several of the other first public outdoor appearances of his fledgling papacy, huge throngs defied forecasts of heavy rain to turn out. They were rewarded by dry skies and some bursts of sun through clouds.

Vatican officials said by mid-ceremony, 250,000 people had come to the square, and thousands of others, including last-minute Romans, flocked to the square just in time to catch his blessing at the end.

The square was a panoply of floral color. Chilly winter has postponed the blossoming of many flowers. Yellow forsythia and white lilies shone, along with bursts of lavender and pink, from potted azalea, rhododendron, wisteria and other plants.

Francis thanked florists from the Netherlands for donating the flowers. He also advised people to let love transform their lives, or as he put it, "let those desert places in our hearts bloom."

The Vatican had prepared a list of brief Easter greetings in 65 languages, but Francis didn't read them. The Vatican didn't say why not, but has said that the new pope, at least for now, feels at ease using Italian, the everyday language of the Holy See. Francis also has stressed his role as a pastor to his flock, and, as Bishop of Rome, Italian would be his language.

The pontiff improvised his parting words to the crowd. He repeated his Easter greeting to those "who have come from all over the world to this square at the heart of Christianity" as well as to those "linked by modern technology," a reference to TV and radio coverage as well as social media.

Francis added that he was especially remembering "the weakest and the neediest" and praying that all of humanity be guided along "the paths of justice, love and peace."

In another departure from Easter tradition, Francis won't be heading for some post-holiday relaxation at the Vatican's summer palace in Castel Gandolfo, in the hills southeast of Rome. That retreat is already occupied by his predecessor, Benedict XVI, who went there in the last hours of his papacy on Feb. 28. Benedict became the first pope in 600 years to resign from the position, and eventually is to move back to the Vatican, after a convent there is readied for him.

Francis so far has declined to move into Benedict's former apartment in the Apostolic Palace, into the rooms whose studio overlooks St. Peter's Square. He is still in the Vatican hotel where earlier this month he was staying along with other cardinals participating in the secret conclave to choose Benedict's successor.

While Francis has just begun to make his mark on the church, it is plain he has little desire to embrace much of the pomp customarily associated with the office.