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VATICAN CITY (AFP) – Pope Francis began his traditional Easter mass in Rome on Sunday with thousands of the faithful being subjected to heightened security measures.
The Easter mass, the highlight of the Christian calendar, began at 0800 GMT under a cloudy sky where worshippers had gathered since the early hours to gain access. Heavy rain lashed down for several minutes around one hour later.
The mass followed Francis’s not bad Friday prayer in which he deplored the suffering of migrants, victims of racism as well as the persecution of Christians around the earth.
A week of Easter events had a bloody beginning last Sunday when attacks claimed by the Islamic State group on two Coptic churches in Egypt left 45 people dead.
The entire area around St Peter’s Basilica was blocked, with only several access points for those admitted after their bags had been inspected.
Access to St Peter’s Square itself was only possible after security checks similar to those at airports. Hundreds of police as well as security forces stood guard.
Mass was to be followed by the traditional Urbi et Orbi blessing, to the city as well as the earth, coming from the Argentine pope at around 1000 GMT.