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Pope holds vigil to lead Catholics into Easter Sunday

The Pope has held his final service prior to Easter Sunday celebrations. In a late-night vigil at St. Peter's Basilica he urged Catholics to rediscover the roots of their faith.

More than 10,000 people packed into the darkened church on Saturday evening to hear the Pope preside over the second major vigil in the Easter calendar.

All lights were switched off in the immense church at the start of the service to signify the darkness felt by the faithful following the crucifixion of Jesus Christ on Good Friday.

Francis entered the Basilica at the head of a candle-lit procession, sharing his candles with others to slowly illuminate the church. The main lights were then turned on in a blaze to mark the joy of Christ's resurrection on Easter Sunday.

In his homily the Pope recounted the Biblical story of how the faith of the apostles was called into question after Jesus' death, but restored when women found his coffin empty following his resurrection.

"Their faith had been utterly shaken, everything seemed over, all their certainties had crumbled and their hopes had died. But now that message of the women, incredible as it was, came to them like a ray of light in the darkness," he said.

He went on to urge his listeners to remember when they first found their faith.

"Do I remember it? Have I forgotten it? Look for it. You'll find it. The Lord is waiting."

In line with tradition the Pope also baptized 10 people aged 7 to 58, who came from Italy, Vietnam, Belarus, Senegal, Lebanon and France.

It was the second late-night service for the 77-year-old pontiff who led the

Good Friday Way of the Cross procession

at Rome's Colosseum the previous evening.

On Sunday Francis is expected to celebrate an open-air mass in Saint Peter's Square in front of tens of thousands of people and deliver his twice-yearly "Urbi et Orbi" (to the city and the world) blessings.

ccp/crh (dpa, Reuters, AP)

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