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(CNN) -- Christians around the world gathered Sunday to
celebrate Easter, their religion's most sacred holiday, as
Pope John Paul II prayed for peace in the world's trouble
spots, especially Africa, Albania and the Middle East.
(880 K / 23 sec. The Pope gives his Easter vigil at the Vatican QuickTime movie)
In Jerusalem, pilgrims from across the globe gathered at the
Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the site where Christians
believe Jesus was buried, and prayed for peace.
"Many evils are surrounding us. The main one is the absence
of peace," Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah said in an Easter
message in Jerusalem.
Easter Sunday, considered the most important day in the
Christian calendar, is a celebration of Jesus' resurrection
after his death by crucifixion.
In the capital of predominantly Catholic Nicaragua, devotees
renewed an old Easter tradition that had fallen by the
wayside in the former Communist country: a dramatization of
events leading up to the crucifixion.
Young actors re-enacted the Stations of the Cross by taking
the roles of Jesus, Mary, the Roman soldiers and others.
In Washington, Christians gathered outside the Lincoln
Memorial for a sunrise service to commemorate Christ's
And at England's Canterbury Cathedral, Archbishop of
Canterbury George Carey -- the head of the 70 million strong
worldwide Anglican communion -- said God's peace should begin
at local communities.
"Too many people -- especially young people -- feel rejected
and undervalued," Carey said
Although most of the world's Christian population celebrates
the holiday Sunday, the Eastern Orthodox Church calculates
the date differently. The Orthodox Easter can fall one or
more weeks after that of the West.
At the Vatican, up to 100,000 people filled St. Peter's
Square for the pope's two-hour Easter message.
"Christ is truly risen! In him, today, we can overcome forces
of evil," John Paul told the crowd.
The 76-year-old pontiff used the "Urbi et Orbi" -- "To the
City and to the World" -- blessing to send a message of hope
for the victims of violence in Albania and Africa, among
other troubled regions. He delivered Easter greetings in 57
"Christ is the hope ... of those who see life and the future
threatened by war and hatred, especially in the heart of
Africa," he said.
He also called for "harmonious living" in the Holy Land, and
said his thoughts went out "in a special way" to the hostages
who have been held captive by rebels in the Japanese embassy
in Lima, Peru, since December.
The pope appeared in relatively good form, if a bit tired,
after a long week of celebrations, including a nearly
four-hour Easter service at St. Peter's Basilica Saturday
In a departure from tradition, the pope spoke Sunday seated
in a chair near the outdoor altar rather than from the
basilica balcony, which had a banner and curtain set up in
preparation for his presence.
Elsewhere, Easter celebrations entailed a light touch.
(877 K / 22 sec. Easter observances in Mexico City QuickTime movie)
In France, top chefs made delicate chocolate eggs that more
closely resembled works of art than food. Easter eggs are
symbols of new life and resurrection.
"The people who buy them range from grandmothers to large
companies," says Francois Schmitt, head chef of Le Notre, a
French chocolate factory. "It's a present that's like
Across the United States, the Easter Bunny was hopping
about. In Battle Creek, Michigan, the bunny paid a visit to
the zoo to have Easter breakfast with other animals and
children. Elsewhere, children from New York City to Racine,
Wisconsin, to Los Angeles participated in annual Easter egg
Meanwhile, in Washington, preparations were under way for the
annual White House Egg Hunt and Roll scheduled for Monday.
About 27,000 were expected to attend the event hosted by
President Clinton and the first lady.
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