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Risen Christ calls all to follow him on path to life, pope says


  • Pope Francis greets the crowd after delivering his Easter message and blessing "urbi et orbi" (to the city and the world) from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican April 16. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
  • Pope Francis delivers his Easter message and blessing "urbi et orbi" (to the city and the world) from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican April 16. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
  • Pope Francis uses incense as he celebrates Easter Mass in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican April 16. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
  • People use umbrellas during a brief rainfall as Pope Francis celebrates Easter Mass in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican April 16. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
  • Pope Francis holds a candle as he celebrates the Easter Vigil in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican April 15. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
  • Pope Francis carries a candle as he arrives to celebrate the Easter Vigil in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican April 15. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

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VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Jesus is the risen shepherd who takes upon his shoulders "our brothers and sisters crushed by evil in all its varied forms," Pope Francis said before giving his solemn Easter blessing.

With tens of thousands of people gathered in St. Peter's Square April 16, the pope called on Christians to be instruments of Christ's outreach to refugees and migrants, victims of war and exploitation, famine and loneliness.

For the 30th year in a row, Dutch farmers and florists blanketed the area around the altar with grass and 35,000 flowers and plants: lilies, roses, tulips, hyacinths, daffodils, birch and linden.

Preaching without a prepared text, Pope Francis began -- as he did the night before at the Easter Vigil -- imagining the disciples desolate because "the one they loved so much was executed. He died."

While they are huddling in fear, the angel tells them, "He is risen." And, the pope said, the church continues to proclaim that message always and everywhere, including to those whose lives are truly, unfairly difficult.

"It is the mystery of the cornerstone that was discarded, but has become the foundation of our existence," he said. And those who follow Jesus, "we pebbles," find meaning even in the midst of suffering because of sure hope in the resurrection.

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