VATICAN CITY - Pope Francis, leading the world's 1.2 billion Catholics into Easter for the first time, on Saturday urged those who have strayed from the faith to allow God back into their lives.
Francis, who was elected on March 13, 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.
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.
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's tomb but were surprised to find it empty.