.- Tens of thousands from around the world gathered for the solemn Easter mass in St. Peter's Square this morning to celebrate the Resurrected Christ and to receive the Pope's benediction.
Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano presided at the 10:30 a.m. mass, standing in for the ailing Pontiff, but the frail Pope John Paul II did not disappoint. He appeared at his study window at the end of mass and gave the faithful his blessing, though he was unable to speak.
During the Mass, the Pope's window was kept open and his coat of arms was hung outside, reminding the faithful of his spiritual presence.
Unable to preside at any of this year's Holy Week celebrations for the first time in his 26-year pontificate due to poor health, the Pope issued repeated messages, assuring Catholics that he is spiritually with them.
The faithful also prayed that God give "life and new energy" to the Church and "to our bishop and Pope, John Paul II."
At the end of the mass, the Pope in his white cassock was seen at his window as Cardinal Sodano read the Pontiff's Urbi et Orbi message.
After the message, a priest announced that the Pope would give the crowd a special blessing. What followed was a moving scene.
Aides brought a microphone to the Pope's mouth. Raising his hands in a show of extraordinary will, the 84-year-old pontiff tried to speak but was only able to make a few sounds, unable to pronounce any words. The aides removed the microphone and the Pope proceeded silently to make the sign of the cross over the emotional crowd.
The mass was broadcast live. Many pilgrims in the square were shown crying and expressing their hope and admiration for their spiritual leader.
Read the full Urbi et Orbi message at: