New pope visits presumed resting place of Saint Peter | News | DW | 01.04.2013
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New pope visits presumed resting place of Saint Peter

The new head of the Vatican, Pope Francis, has visited the presumed burial site of the first ever pontiff, Saint Peter. He also addressed thousands of Catholics at St Peter's Square to mark the end of Easter.

The Vatican billed Pope Francis' visit to the necropolis in St Peter's Basilica on Easter Monday as both a surprise and a secret, before later releasing a short video of it.

The presumed remains of the man who the Roman Catholic Church claims as its first pope, Saint Peter, are kept in a mausoleum beneath the basilica.

Peter was one of Jesus' disciples; he is believed to have been crucified during Emperor Nero's reign.

Francis "paused in silent prayer, in profound and emotional meditation" in the Clementine Chapel in the basilica, which the Vatican described as "the closest place to the tomb of the Prince of the Apostles."

The former Archbishop of Buenos Aires, born Jorge Mario Bergoglio, also visited the graves of former popes including Benedict XV, Pius XII, Paul VI and John Paul I.

End of Easter address

Before seeking out past predecessors, Francis addressed an audience of current followers from a window overlooking St Peter's Square.

It was the last appointment in a hectic weekend schedule of celebrations and ceremonies tied to the Christian festival Easter, which commemorates the New Testament story of Jesus' death and subsequent resurrection.

"May the force of the resurrection of Christ reach every person, especially those who suffer and all the situations which need faith and hope the most," Francis told the audience, saying he hoped Easter would inspire people to allow for "hatred to make way for love, for lies to make way for truth, for revenge to make way for forgiveness, for sadness to make way for joy."

Francis was elected pope on March 13, after his German-born predecessor Benedict XVI took the unusual step of relinquishing the job. Francis has sought in his first month in charge to cultivate a more simple and humble image. He is the first pontiff ever to hail from Latin America.

msh/jlw (AFP, AP, dpa)