Pope Benedict XVI has celebrated Palm Sunday with a Mass in Saint Peter's Square to begin Holy Week ceremonies. Sabina Castelfranco reports from Rome that this year Holy Week also includes a ceremony to mark the second anniversary of the death of Pope John Paul II.
A procession of priests, bishops and cardinals holding palm leaves and olive branches opened Pope Benedict's Palm Sunday Mass for thousands of faithful Roman Catholics in Saint Peter's Square.
Continuing in a tradition started by his predecessor, John Paul, Pope Benedict dedicated his Palm Sunday Mass to young people, who turned out in large numbers.
In a homily marking Christ's triumphant entry into Jerusalem a week before being crucified, Pope Benedict said those who chose to follow Jesus had to give themselves up completely.
The Pope also told the faithful not to let themselves be carried along in life, and not to accept what everyone thinks, says or does, but to look around and search for God. He spoke of the need for mankind to maintain innocent hands and a pure heart.
"Innocent hands," Benedict said, "are not used for acts of violence; they are not dirtied by corruption or bribes. And a heart is pure," he added, "when it is not stained by lies and hypocrisy."
The pope greeted young people, in various languages, at the end of the mass.
"May the great events of Holy Week, in which we see love unfold in its most radical form, inspire you to be courageous 'witnesses of charity' for your friends, your communities and our world," he says.
Sunday's mass marks the start of the Christian Holy Week that includes the Good Friday re-enactment of Christ's crucifixion and death, and masses to celebrate His resurrection on Easter Sunday.
This year, Holy Week also includes a mass on Monday to mark the second anniversary of the death of Pope John Paul II.
On the same day, the Roman Catholic Church will close one phase of the investigation into John Paul's sainthood. A French nun, whose cure from Parkinson's disease is believed to be key to the the case for beatification, is expected to attend the mass commemorating John Paul's death.