Jesus is the Risen Shepherd who takes upon his shoulders “our brothers and sisters crushed by evil in all its varied forms”, Pope Francis has said.

With tens of thousands of people gathered in St Peter’s Square, the Pope urged 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, Francis began by 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 amid suffering because of sure hope in the Resurrection. Pope Francis suggested everyone find a quiet place on Easter to reflect on their problems and the problems of the world and then tell God: “I don’t know how this will end, but I know Christ has risen.”

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