VATICAN CITY (REUTERS) - Pope Francis, leading the world's Roman Catholics into Easter, urged them on Saturday (April 15) not to ignore the plight of immigrants, the poor and other vulnerable people.
In his homily at an Easter Vigil Mass in St Peter's Basilica, Francis recounted the Biblical account of Jesus Christ's mother Mary and Mary Magdalene, filled with grief, as they went to visit his tomb following the crucifixion.
Their grief, he said during the solemn ceremony, could be seen in the faces of many women today.
"In their faces we can see reflected all those who, walking the streets of our cities, feel the pain of dire poverty, the sorrow born of exploitation and human trafficking," he said.
"We can also see the faces of those who are greeted with contempt because they are immigrants, deprived of country, house and family. We see faces whose eyes bespeak loneliness and abandonment, because their hands are creased with wrinkles."
Francis has used the period leading up to Easter to stress his vision of service to the neediest.
On Good Friday, he lamented that many people had become inured to daily scenes of bombed cities and drowning migrants..
During Saturday's service, he baptised 11 people, most of them adult converts to Catholicism, from Italy, Spain, the Czech Republic, the United States, Albania, Malta, Malaysia and China.
On Easter Sunday, the most important day in the Christian liturgical calendar, he will read his twice-annual "Urbi et Orbi" ("To the City and the World") message in St Peter's Square.
Security has been tight for all of the pope's Holy Week activities following recent truck attacks against pedestrians in London and Stockholm.