Tens of thousands of Roman Catholics turned out for Pope Benedict's first Palm Sunday. He celebrated an open air mass in Saint Peter's Square during which he blessed palm leaves and olive branches, marking the start of the Christian Holy Week.
A brilliant sun bathed Saint Peter's Square as Pope Benedict held an outdoor mass to celebrate the first Palm Sunday of his papacy. Tens of thousands were in the square and the leader of the Roman Catholic Church blessed palm leaves and olive branches, symbols of peace.
In an opening prayer, Pope Benedict said "With this liturgical assembly we enter into Holy Week, to live the Passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ."
During the mass, the pope recalled Jesus' triumphant entry into Jerusalem. He said his was a message of poverty, peace and universality. The pope called for people around the world to undergo a purification of hearts to help heal what he said was a lacerated world.
The pope said personal internal freedom is the premise to overcome corruption and greed, which are devastating the world.
Christ's message, he said, was not to respond to an injustice with another injustice, to violence with another violence, but to remind us that evil can only be overcome with good, not with another evil. The pope said Jesus taught us love is stronger than death.
Palm Sunday mass is also dedicated to young people who celebrate World Youth Day in local dioceses. After the mass, young people from Germany, where World Youth Day was held last year in the presence of the pope, handed a wooden cross to young people from Sydney, where the next World Youth Day will be celebrated in 2008.
With today's ceremony commemorating Jesus Christ's triumphant entry into Jerusalem, the pope opened a busy Holy Week, which includes the Good Friday remembrance of Christ's crucifixion and culminates on Easter Sunday, when Christians celebrate His resurrection.