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Pope Francis leads his first Easter Sunday Mass in St. Peter's Square

Pope Francis celebrated his first Easter Sunday since his election, leading a traditional open-air Mass in front of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican.

The pontiff strode onto a flower-bedecked esplanade facing St Peter’s Square, into which tens of thousands of faithful had gathered from early Sunday.

Francis bowed his head in reflection as the Gospel was sung in Latin, The Associated Press reported, recounting what Christians believe is the central mystery of their faith — the resurrection of Jesus after this death by crucifixion.

On the holiest day of the Christian calendar, he was later expected to make his "Urbi et Orbi" speech to the city of Rome and to the world.

"Let the risen Jesus enter your life,” the pope told worshippers before the service via his Twitter account. "He will receive you with open arms."

On Saturday night, he presided at a solemn Easter vigil Mass in St. Peter' Basilica to usher the Catholic Church into the most important day of its liturgical calendar, Reuters reported.

The immense basilica, the largest church in Christendom, was in the dark for the start of the service to signify the darkness in Jesus' tomb before what Christians believe was his resurrection from the dead three days after his crucifixion.

Some 10,000 faithful lit candles as Francis, the former Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina, walked up the main aisle, and then the basilica's lights were turned on, Reuters said.

The 76-year-old Francis, wearing relatively plain white vestments - as opposed to the more elaborate robes preferred by his predecessor Benedict - delivered a simple homily recounting the Bible story of the women who went to Jesus' tomb but were surprised to find it empty.

Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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