VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis on Saturday called on Catholics to bring the message of God “to the very ends of the earth” during an Easter vigil mass in St Peter’s Basilica.
Francis said the core of the Easter message was about returning to the basics of faith and asking: “Have I gone off on roads and paths which made me forget it?”
He said there was a need to recover “the fire which Jesus has kindled in the world and to bring that fire to all people, to the very ends of the earth”.
The message reiterates his previous calls for a Roman Catholic Church that is closer to ordinary people, more international and less “Vatican-centric”.
The mass wrapped up a series of Vatican ceremonies leading up to Easter Sunday — the holiest day in the Christian calendar, which celebrates the belief in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Tens of thousands of people are expected at mass on Easter Sunday in St Peter’s Square where the pope will deliver a blessing from the same balcony of the basilica where he first appeared on the night of his election last year.
The Vatican then hosts a historic event on April 27 — the first double papal canonisation, with popes John Paul II and John XXIII being declared saints.
Hundreds of thousands are expected for the celebration, including many pilgrims from John Paul II’s homeland, Poland.
On Good Friday, Francis attended a traditional torch-lit ceremony at the Colosseum in Rome where he called for help to “abandoned people” and railed against “the monstruosity of humankind”.
Prayers read out during the ceremony touched on pressing social issues including drug addiction, unemployment, prison overcrowding and domestic abuse.
Francis also instructed the Vatican almoner to give out charity to homeless people around Termini railway station, with each receiving a 50-euro ($69) note and an Easter greeting from the pope.
On Holy Thursday, Francis washed the feet of 12 disabled people at a centre in Rome.
Last year, he had performed the traditional pre-Easter ritual on 12 inmates at a youth detention centre, including two young Muslims.
Popes performing the ceremony — which commemorates the gesture of humility believed to have been carried out by Jesus for his 12 disciples — have usually washed the feet of priests.