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Pope Francis leads shortened Easter Vigil

| Saturday, March 30, 2013, 7:00 p.m.

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis celebrated a trimmed-back Easter Vigil on Saturday during a Holy Week in which he put his mark on the church and riled Catholic traditionalists.

Francis processed into a darkened and silent St. Peter's Basilica at the start of the service, in which the faithful recall the period between Christ's Crucifixion on Good Friday and Resurrection on Easter Sunday.

One of the most dramatic moments of the Easter Vigil service that usually follows — when the pope would share the light of his candle with others until the entire basilica twinkled — was shortened this year as were some of the Old Testament readings.

The Vatican has said those provisions were in keeping with Francis' aim to not have his Masses go on too long. The Easter Vigil service under Benedict XVI would typically run nearly three hours. The new pope has made clear he prefers his Masses short and to the point.

He has upset traditionalists by including two girls and Muslims during a Holy Thursday ritual in a juvenile detention center.

Traditionalists maintain that the rite is a re-enactment of Jesus washing the feet of the 12 apostles before his death, and thus should be limited to men.

“Given his active support for the charismatic movement in his diocese, one can only be concerned that he could be prepared to ordain women,” Chris Gillibrand, a British commentator, wrote on his blog, CathCon. “How can the pope maintain discipline in the church if he himself does not conform himself to prevailing ecclesiastical legislation?”

On Good Friday, Francis reached out with friendship to “Muslim brothers and sisters” during a procession dedicated to the suffering of Christians from terrorism.

Francis has called for “intensified” dialogue with Islam — a gesture that rubs traditionalists the wrong way because they view such a heavy focus on interfaith dialogue as a sign of religious relativism.

In his homily on Saturday, Francis kept his message simple and tied to the liturgical readings, recalling how Jesus' disciples were surprised and confused by his empty tomb.

“Our daily problems and worries can wrap us up in ourselves, in sadness and bitterness, and that is where death is,” he said. “Let the risen Jesus enter your life, welcome him as a friend, with trust: he is life!”

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