Pope, Huge Crowd Celebrate Easter

VATICAN CITY (April 20, 2014) Pope Francis celebrated Christianity's most joyous and hopeful day before an overflow crowd Sunday in St. Peter's Square, praying for a peace dialogue in Ukraine and Syria and for a halt to "brutal terrorist attacks" in parts of Nigeria that have targeted many Christians.

More than 150,000 tourists, Romans and pilgrims, young and old, turned out on a sunny day at the Vatican.

A rainstorm lashed Rome Saturday night, producing thunder that competed with the sound of hymns when Francis led a vigil service in St. Peter's Basilica.

Dawn, though, brought a clear sky and warm temperatures.

This year, the Roman Catholic Church's celebration of Easter coincides with that of the Orthodox Church.

Some of the hymns at the Vatican Mass were in Russian.

Meanwhile thousands of pilgrims from around the world were celebrating Easter in the Holy Land, commemorating the day when according to Christian tradition Jesus was resurrected in Jerusalem two millennia ago.

Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal led Mass Sunday at the Holy Sepulcher church in Jerusalem, where Christians believe Jesus was crucified, buried and resurrected.

In the West Bank town of Bethlehem, worshippers prayed and lit candles at the Church of the Nativity, traditionally believed to be the birthplace of Jesus.

Easter was also celebrated in Gaza where less than three thousand Christians live among about 1.7 million Muslims.

Christian communities in the Holy Land, as well as elsewhere in the Middle East, have been declining in recent years due to regional turmoil.

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