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Pope's words of peace for his first Easter message

Millions of people around the world have celebrated the most important day in the Christian calendar.

Members of the Royal Family were led by the Queen at the traditional Easter Sunday service at Windsor Castle.

A crowd of well-wishers gathered outside St George's Chapel to see the royals as they arrived for the Matins service on a cold March morning.

The Queen, who was joined by the Duke of Edinburgh, wore a long pink coat and matching hat accessorised by a flower.

Princess Eugenie wore a cream dress and hat with a black coat, while her sister, Princess Beatrice, wore a turquoise dress and coat, with a yellow hat.

Their father, the Duke of York, was also at the service.

Meanwhile, Pope Francis delivered a plea for peace in his first Easter Sunday message to the world.

He expressed sorrow at the seemingly endless conflicts in the Middle East and on the Korean peninsula after celebrating Mass along with more than 250,000 people in flower-bedecked St Peter's Square.

Francis shared in his flock's exuberance as they celebrated Christianity's core belief that Jesus Christ rose from the dead following crucifixion.

After Mass, he stepped aboard an open-topped white pope-mobile for a cheerful spin through the joyous crowd, kissing babies and patting children on the head.

In Northern Ireland thousands marked Easter Sunday.

Cross-community and church events took place across the country, with religious leaders urging people to maintain hope.

Bishop of Down and Dromore, Rev Harold Miller, spoke of the current plight of farmers and the loyalist flag protests earlier this year.

"We live at a time when many of our hopes have been dashed," he said.

"Many of our farmers have lost precious livestock and the recent support of the Executive is just a small glimpse of light at a very dark time.

"For others, it is the re-emergence of deep sectarianism at the turn of the year, and the sense that there is little intentionality in government about a shared future.

"Others face this Easter in a province with a level of unemployment and child poverty which we thought unimaginable even just a few years ago. It is as though hope has gone, futures lie buried, and even the remains have been taken away.

"The message of Easter is quite simply this: do not give up hope."

Catholic Cardinal Sean Brady said it was his hope "the light of Christ enter the hearts and minds of all Irish people".

"Darkness will not have the last word; the journey does not end at the cross but begins again with the resurrection," he said.

Throughout the weekend Catholic and Protestant parishioners joined for walks, services and prayer meetings.

They included events in Portadown, Lisburn, Moira, Hillsborough and Londonderry.

Parishioners at St Anne's Cathedral in Belfast enjoyed performances by its newly formed girls' choir.

The choir is made up of 14 girls aged 10–18 from a number of local schools.

David Stevens, who formed the choir, said the Easter Sunday service was a big event for the girls.

"They are a newly formed group so getting ready for this service is a big challenge for them.

"But they are doing a very good job and I am very pleased with them," he said.

Belfast Telegraph

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