Pope celebrates Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter's Square

Pope Benedict XVI celebrated Palm Sunday Mass on Sunday, opening the Catholic Church's solemn Holy Week with an open-air service in St. Peter's Square. At the start of the celebration, Benedict blessed the faithful's palms and olive branches with holy water and then processed to the altar on the steps of the basilica, wearing intricate, red- and gold-brocaded vestments and clutching a woven palm frond. Palm Sunday commemorates Jesus Christ's triumphant entry into Jerusalem, and is the start of the church's most solemn week, which includes the Good Friday re-enactment of Christ's crucifixion and death and his resurrection on Easter Sunday. Benedict reminded the faithful that during Holy Week, they would be recalling what he called the "most sublime drama in history, which is the drama of our salvation." "Let us remember that he (Christ) didn't enter into the holy city to be crowned, but to be condemned and crucified," Benedict said. Sunday also marked a lead-up celebration to the Catholic Church's annual World Youth Day, and young people were very much on hand, with a few hundred carrying massive palm fronds at the start of the procession through the square. Benedict plans to attend World Youth Day itself in Sydney, Australia, in July.