In his annual Easter mass, Pope John Paul II, the head of the Catholic church, asked believers to unite and find the courage and strength to fight the "inhuman" and growing terrorism trend.
Pope John Paul II on Easter Sunday
During his annual Easter prayer, Pope John Paul II on Sunday called on "people of good will" to fight terrorism with love. People must find the strength "to face the inhuman, and unfortunately growing, phenomenon of terrorism," the Pope said before an audience of close to 100,000 at Vatican City's St. Peter's Square.
Terrorism "rejects life and brings anguish and uncertainty" to hardworking and peaceful people, the Pope said. The 83-year-old also called on the international community to do their part to find peaceful solutions to the conflicts of the world. "May world leaders be confirmed and sustained in their efforts to resolve satisfactorily the continuing conflicts that cause bloodshed in certain regions of Africa, Iraq and the Holy Land," he said.
Following tradition, the Pope gave his "Urbi et Orbi" sermon in 62 languages. This year Easter fell on the same date on both the Catholic and Orthodox calendars, and the Pope said he hoped one day the two churches would celebrate every Easter together.
Terror worries in Rome
This year's sermon took place under an extraordinarily high level of security resulting from terrorism fears. Intelligence agencies have long warned of possible terror attacks against the Vatican, the center of Christianity. Both the eternal city and the Vatican mobilized to deal with terrorist attacks. Officials banned all air traffic over Rome.
Papal Swiss guards in front of St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican
Around 12,000 police officers and 4,000 soldiers were on duty in the Italian capital -- at airports, train stations, subways, government buildings and embassies as well as so-called "soft targets," such as museums, churches and shopping centers. Authorities identified 8,000 locations that they say could be singled out by terrorists. More than 1,000 out-of-uniform police also scattered out among the many gathered to pray with the Pope.
The Vatican's security forces, including the 140 gendarmes and 110 Swiss Guards (photo), the elite troop that ensures the Pope's safety, were also on high alert. According to media reports, the CIA advised the Pope to wear a bullet-proof vest for the celebrations, which stretch from Thursday to Monday. But John Paul II, who survived an assassination attempt at the Vatican in 1981, reportedly rejected the idea.
A sea of candlelight
On Saturday, the Pope commemorated Christ's resurrection by lighting the traditional Easter candle. From his wheelchair, he led the procession bringing the candle into St. Peter's Cathedral, which was swiftly transformed into a flickering sea of candlelight.
Following the procession, the Pope baptized seven Catholic followers from three different continents. The Pope suffers from Parkinson's disease, and signs of his failing health were present throughout Saturday and Sunday's services. He was met with thunderous applause at the completion of each. Like last year, this year's events on Saturday were held earlier to give the Pope more time to recover before Sunday's Easter mass.