Less than 12 hours before issuing his Easter message and “Urbi et Orbi” blessing, Pope Francis presided over the nighttime Easter Vigil, lighting the Easter candle and processing into a St. Peter's Basilica lit mainly by the flashes of the cameras that people had been asked not to use.During the Mass, he welcomed into the Catholic Church four men between the ages of 17 and 30. The men from Albania, Italy, Russia and the United States were baptized, confirmed and received their first Communion at the Mass. The 17-year-old from the United States was identified as Anthony Dinh Tran.In his homily for the vigil, Pope Francis spoke about how the women had gone to Jesus' tomb with sorrow and love to anoint his body.But, he said, "something completely new and unexpected happens." They find the tomb empty, and they are confused and afraid, the pope said."Doesn't the same thing also happen to us when something completely new occurs in our everyday life? We stop short, we don't understand, we don't know what to do," he said. "Newness often makes us fearful, including the newness which God brings us, the newness which God asks of us."Like the women at the tomb, he said, often "we are afraid of God's surprises," yet, "he always surprises us.""Dear brothers and sisters," he said, "let us not be closed to the newness that God wants to bring into our lives. Are we often weary, disheartened and sad? Do we feel weighed down by our sins? Do we think that we won't be able to cope? Let us not close our hearts, let us not lose confidence, let us never give up."The risen Jesus is risen for all time, he said, meaning that his is forever victorious "over everything that crushes life and makes it seem less human."Pope Francis said he knows there are many times in life when it is difficult to believe in the power of God to bring forth new life. It's easier, he said, to be like the women in the Gospel and "look for the living among the dead."The women in the Gospel are told to remember their life with Jesus and the things he had said and done. Only then do they conquer their fear and share the news of the Resurrection with the other disciples."To remember what God has done and continues to do for me, for us, to remember the road we have traveled; this is what opens our hearts to hope for the future," he said. "May we learn to remember everything that God has done in our lives."Pope visits area of St. Peter’s tombOn April 1, Pope Francis became the first pope to tour the excavated necropolis where St. Peter is buried, said Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman. With explanations from the two directors of the necropolis, the pope walked down the central path between the mostly second-century burial chambers, then went up a slight incline toward the tomb of Peter, which is directly under the main altar of St. Peter's Basilica. In the Clementine Chapel, "the place closest to the tomb of the Prince of the Apostles, the pope paused in silent prayer and in a deep and moving moment of reflection," Father Lombardi said. Pope Francis spent 45 minutes in the necropolis and in the grotto, where he paid homage at the tombs of several popes, including Popes Benedict XV, Pius XI, Pius XII, Paul VI and John Paul I, Father Lombardi said. The entrance to the grotto and necropolis is across a parking lot from the Domus Sanctae Marthae, where the pope is living. The pope walked there and back, Father Lombardi said. The necropolis is a burial ground where St. Peter's tomb has been venerated since early Christian times and where the first church dedicated to the saint was built. The tomb is two levels below the main altar of the modern basilica. On the level between the necropolis and the basilica is the Vatican grotto, the place where many popes and a few Catholic nobles have been buried since the 10th century. The necropolis was excavated in the 1930s and '40s, which led to discovery of a double row of mausoleums and niches decorated with paintings, stucco and mosaics, along with a section of simpler graves. The archaeologists also discovered a bit of graffiti scrawled on a piece of red-tinted wall; dated to sometime shortly before the year 200; it reads "Petros Eni" (Peter is here). Nearby were found the remains of the altar the Emperor Constantine was believed to have ordered erected over St. Peter's tomb in 324. The bits of human bones found near the red wall and ancient altar were studied for years and became the object of intense debate among Catholic archaeologists. After almost 20 years of further excavation and study, Pope Paul announced in 1968 that the relics of St. Peter "have been identified in a manner which we believe convincing." Since 1998, the Vatican has been repairing and restoring the tombs, labyrinthine lanes and funerary artwork in the necropolis using state-of-the-art techniques. It also has set up a complete conservation and lighting system that controls the climate of the necropolis to prevent further damage. Image on Turin shroud: Reminder of God's love Gazing upon the image of a crucified man on the Shroud of Turin, Catholics contemplate Jesus and are called on to remember his great love for them and for all who suffer, Pope Francis said in a video message broadcast March 30 on Italian state television. The face on the shroud "has eyes that are closed; it is the face of one who is dead, and yet mysteriously he is watching us, and in silence he speaks to us," the pope said. The pope's message was part of a special Holy Saturday exhibition of the shroud as part of the Year of Faith. According to tradition, the 14-foot-by-4-foot Shroud of Turin is the linen burial shroud of Jesus. The shroud has a full-length photonegative image of a man, front and back, bearing signs of wounds that correspond to the Gospel accounts of the torture Jesus endured in his passion and death. Housed at Turin's cathedral, the shroud usually is kept from public view in a specially designed, high-tech case to prevent its disintegration and other damage. Put briefly on public display on Holy Saturday, the shroud was the centerpiece of a prayer service where the sick were the special guests, read the prayer petitions and were the first to venerate the holy image. The entire service was broadcast live on the main channel of Italian state television. "This image, impressed upon the cloth, speaks to our heart and moves us to climb the hill of Calvary, to look upon the wood of the cross, and to immerse ourselves in the eloquent silence of love," Pope Francis said in his message. —CNS{gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2013/0405/popeeaster/{/gallery}