Christians throughout the world celebrated their most sacred holiday yesterday with Eastern prayers in Jerusalem, a mass for 200,000 pilgrims in Vatican City and all-night feasts in the officially atheist Soviet Union.
In Jerusalem, thousands of worshippers from East and West celebrated the resurrection in what tourism officials said was the history's greatest Easter turnout of visitors to the Holy Land.
For the first time in three years, Easter observances fell on the same day for the Russian and Greek Orthodox churches as well as other Eastern Christian denominations and for Roman Catholics and Protestants from the West.
"Life is beautiful if it is new," Pope Paul VI told pilgrims who filled the St. Peter's Square under sunny skies.
"A happy Easter, a happy Easter," the 79-year-old Roman Catholic leader said in 14 languages, after celebrating mass at a special altar set up in front of St. Peter's Basilica.
The Pope said that Christ's resurrection should make men rethink the values of their daily lives.
"Death is no longer the limit of our existence," the Pope said. "Bodily death is not the inexorable end of our existence, it is the sleep that prededes a new day without end.
The message of Easter, he said, can "transform our way of thinking about life."
In Soviet Union Christians celebrated Easter in church and with feasts at home while the government allowed theaters to hold special showings of popular foreign films in apparent competition with late night church services.
Both churches and movie theaters were packed.
Believers and non-believers held all-night feasts at their homes Saturday night, many serving Easter eggs and dishes of sweet curdled cream cheese and raisin cake blessed at churches earlier in the day.