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Crowds Greet New Pope as he Opens Holy Week Observances

(AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

(AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

VATICAN CITY (AP) — The Vatican estimates that 250,000 people jammed St. Peter’s Square today to hear Pope Francis celebrate Palm Sunday Mass.

The enthusiastic crowd waved olive branches and palm fronds as the Catholic church marked the start of Holy Week, the solemn week leading up to Easter.

In his homily, the pope encouraged people to be humble and joyful. He said Christian joy `’isn’t born from possessing a lot of things but from having met” Jesus. He said that same joy should keep people young.

Keeping with his spontaneous style, the first pope from Latin America broke away several times from his prepared text to encourage the faithful to lead simple lives and resist the temptation to be sad when life’s obstacles inevitably come their way.

He also promised to go to a youth jamboree in Brazil in July.

At the end of the two-hour Mass, Francis climbed into an open popemobile to circle through the crowd. He leaned out to shake hands, kissed and patted the heads of infants passed to him by bodyguards, and often gave children the thumbs-up sign.

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