Pope Francis, huge crowd joyously celebrate Easter

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Pope Francis incenses the faithful as he arrives to celebrate an Easter Sunday Mass in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Sunday, April 20, 2014. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

Pope Francis incenses the faithful as he arrives to celebrate an Easter Sunday Mass in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Sunday, April 20, 2014. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

Pope Francis, center, arrives to celebrate an Easter Sunday Mass in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Sunday, April 20, 2014. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

Cardinals hold lit candles during the Easter vigil service celebrated by Pope Francis in St. Peter’s Basilica, at the Vatican Saturday, April 19, 2014. Pope Francis baptized 10 people Saturday as he presided over an Easter Vigil in St. Peter’s Basilica, fulfilling a ritual deep in meaning on the most solemn night of the Catholic calendar. Francis urged the priests, bishops, cardinals and ordinary Catholics gathered for the late night service to remember when they first found their faith. “Do I remember it? Have I forgotten it? Look for it. You’ll find it. The Lord is waiting.” (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

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VATICAN CITY (AP) — Celebrating Easter Sunday, Christianity’s most joyous day, Pope Francis stood under sunny skies before a flock so numerous they overflowed the flower-bedecked St. Peter’s Square.

Even before Mass began in late morning, more than 100,000 tourist, Romans and pilgrims, young and old, had turned out for the Mass. Many more streamed in throughout the ceremony.

The broad boulevard leading from the square to the Tiber river filled up with the faithful and the curious, trying to catch a glimpse of the pontiff at the altar under a canopy erected on the steps of St. Peter’s Basilica.

A rainstorm had lashed Rome on Saturday night, with thunder competing with the sound of hymns when Francis led a vigil service in St. Peter’s Basilica. Dawn brought clear skies and warm temperatures for Easter, the culmination of Holy Week, the day which marks the Christian belief that Jesus rose from the dead after his crucifixion.

This year the Roman Catholic church’s celebration of Easter coincided with that of the Orthodox church and some of the hymns at the Vatican Mass were in Russian.

Francis didn’t give a homily, since traditionally pontiffs’ main remarks on Easter come during the noon-time “Urbi et Orbi” (Latin for ‘to the city and the world’) address.

Reflecting the worldwide reach of the Catholic church, faithful read aloud prayers and passages from the Bible in Hindu, French, Chinese, German, Korean, Spanish, Italian and English.

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Follow Frances D’Emilio on Twitter at www.twitter.com/fdemilio

Associated Press

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