Since he became pope -- and earlier as an archbishop in Argentina -- Pope Francis has put concern for the poor and suffering at the center of his messages.

Pope Francis delivers his first 'Urbi et Orbi' blessing from the balcony of St. Peter's Basilica during Easter Mass (Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

And he did so again today in his Easter message, saying his greetings were aimed at "every house and every family, especially where the suffering is greatest."

Francis also denounced what he described as the "selfishness" that he says plagues the world, threatening human life.

The more-than 250,000 people who gathered in St. Peter's Square on this Easter Sunday were rewarded with a visit from the new pontiff.

After celebrating Mass, Pope Francis stepped aboard his popemobile for a spin through the crowd, kissing babies and patting children on the head. One man handed Francis a jersey for the pope's favorite soccer team in Argentina. Francis briefly held it up, and the crowd roared in approval.


Christians in the Holy Land celebrate Easter

Catholics and Protestants in the Holy Land are celebrating Easter with prayers and services.

Worshippers prayed Sunday in the ancient church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, built on the site where tradition holds Jesus was crucified, briefly entombed and then resurrected.

Christians believe Jesus was resurrected on Easter. Roman Catholics and Protestants, who follow the new, Gregorian calendar, celebrate Easter on Sunday. Orthodox Christians, who follow the old, Julian calendar, will mark it in May.

Protestants held Easter ceremonies outside Jerusalem's walled Old City at the Garden Tomb, which some identify as the site of Jesus' burial. Another service was held at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, Jesus' traditional birthplace.

Iraqi Catholics celebrate Easter

Iraqi Catholics are flocking to churches around the country to celebrate Easter amid tight security.

At the St. Joseph Chaldean Church in Baghdad, some 200 worshipers sang and prayed, standing and sitting, as they gathered for Easter Sunday mass led by Father Saad Sirop.

There are an estimated 400,000 to 600,000 Christians in Iraq, including many Catholics of the Chaldean church and the smaller Assyrian Catholic church.

Since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, Iraqi Christians have suffered repeated attacks by Islamic militants and hundreds of thousands have left the country.

Decades of immigration have reduced the size of Christian communities throughout the Middle East, with most leaving for better opportunities and to join families abroad.

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved)