- By Aleem Maqbool in Vatican City
- Religion Editor, BBC News
In the early hours on a stunning Easter morning in Vatican City, thousands of people from around the world waited to be let into St Peter’s Square for Pope Francis’ Mass.
Once access was opened, nuns and priests were among those who ran to secure a good vantage point, in a square bedecked with nearly 40,000 flowers donated by the Netherlands.
Just days ago they may have had doubts about whether Pope Francis, 86, would be well enough to attend Holy Week events at all.
Since being discharged after what was determined to be a bout of bronchitis, Pope Francis has managed to fulfil most of his commitments, leading Mass on Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday and Good Friday.
But for the first time since becoming pope in 2013, he did miss the Via Crucis ceremony on the evening of Good Friday at Rome’s Colosseum, which commemorates the final hours in the life of Jesus.
At other points during the week the Pope had appeared tired and sometimes breathless.
It all meant that many who had come to St Peter’s Square today spoke of their concerns about how the Pope might look and sound.
In the end, he appeared untroubled through the 75-minute long Mass.
But it was immediately afterwards that he seemed particularly energised, moving along a row of cardinals in his wheelchair to greet and smile and speak with them, before taking to his open-top vehicle to wave to the crowds.
“The Pope looked in really good health,” said Sally, who was visiting from Maidenhead, in the UK, with her husband and two children.
“The crowd was encouraging him along, but he looked happy and it was great to see him in fine spirits.”
Eliana, from Liguria in north-western Italy, said: “I was very worried when he was in hospital and I kept informed because he’s so special.
“He wanted to fulfil all his commitments for this Holy Week, and to see him here you realise just how strong he is.”
The last of those commitments was an appearance at the main balcony of St Peter’s Basilica to deliver his “Urbi and Orbi” blessing – to “The City and the World.”
Pope Francis has faced criticism from some Ukrainians in the past for seeming to conflate their suffering with that being experienced by Russians.
He prayed to “help the beloved Ukrainian people on their journey towards peace”, and also to “shed the light of Easter upon the people of Russia”.
And with that, as he disappeared from the view of the estimated 100,000 who had come to see him, Pope Francis had successfully negotiated the toughest week in his calendar.