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Pope prays at tomb of Pope John Paul II on anniversary of death; Vatican stresses continuity

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In this picture made available by the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, Pope Francis, followed by Cardinal Angelo Comastri, right, and Bishop Vittorio Lanzani, partially hidden, visits the necropolis where pagans and early Christians were buried under St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican and where St. Peter is believed to be buried, Monday, April 1, 2013, during what was called the first-ever visit by a pope. The basilica was built over the location where early Christians would gather in secret, at a time of persecution in ancient Rome, to pray at an unmarked tomb believed to be that of Peter, the apostle Jesus chose to lead his church. (AP Photo/L'Osservatore Romano)The Associated Press

Pope Francis has prayed before the tomb of Pope John Paul II on the eighth anniversary of the much-beloved pontiff's death.

In his three weeks as pope, Francis has jolted the Catholic Church with several gestures that broke with tradition, including renouncing certain liturgical vestments and washing the feet of a Muslim woman during a Holy Thursday ritual re-enacting Jesus Christ's washing of his apostles' feet.

But the Vatican said his visit Tuesday evening to St. Peter's Basilica to pray before John Paul's tomb and those of Popes John XXIII and Pius X was evidence of his "profound spiritual continuity" with popes past.

On Monday, Francis visited the necropolis underneath the basilica where, according to tradition, St. Peter is buried.

Francis was elected pope March 13.