Pope Francis is presiding over the symbolic and solemn Easter Vigil service amid mounting Vatican concern for modern-day Christian martyrs.

Francis walked in the dark down an utterly silent St. Peter's Basilica at the start of the vigil Mass, which precedes the joyous celebration on Easter Sunday commemorating Christ's resurrection after his crucifixion.

During the late-night service, 10 people from Italy, Portugal, Albania, Kenya and Cambodia are to be baptized.

On Friday, during the Via Crucis procession at Rome's Colosseum, Francis denounced the "complicit silence" of the international community before the massacres of Christians in many parts of the world by Islamic extremists.

Francis has voiced increasing alarm about the attacks, which have led Christians to abandon communities in the Mideast that have existed since Jesus' time.