Pope Presides Over Candlelit Easter Vigil Mass At St. Peter's

Saturday, April 7th 2007, 3:54 pm
By: News On 6

VATICAN CITY (AP) _ Pope Benedict XVI presided over a candlelit Easter Vigil Mass in St. Peter's Basilica Saturday night, ushering in the most important event of Christian Church calendar with a lengthy service attended by thousands.

Benedict opened the Mass by blessing a large white candle, which he then carried down the main aisle of the darkened basilica. Slowly, the whole basilica began to twinkle as his lone flame was shared with candles carried by the faithful.

The Church considers the period between Good Friday, which commemorates Jesus' crucifixion, and Easter Sunday, which marks his resurrection, as the most important of all vigils.

During the service, Benedict was expected to baptize several people _ part of the joyful renewal Christians associate with Easter.

Tens of thousands of faithful are expected to flock to St. Peter's Square early Sunday for the pope's Easter Mass and later to hear his ``Urbi et Orbi'' message delivered from the basilica's central balcony on the square. The message _ ``to the city and to the world'' _ is an occasion for the pope to talk about international crises, moral issues and other concerns of the Church.

Benedict, 79, presided over two, long back-to-back public ceremonies on Good Friday, including an afternoon Mass and a late-night Way of the Cross procession at the Colosseum to mark Jesus' suffering and death by crucifixion.

The Via Crucis procession is a Good Friday ritual in many parts of the world.

At the end of Good Friday in the southern Italian city of Naples, Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe presided over the burning of a pile of guns, knives and other weapons that had been turned in over past months after he appealed to gangsters to change their ways. Organized crime turf wars have flared in Naples for years, sometimes claiming innocent bystanders as their victims.