Pope Francis was wrapping up a bleak week in Europe by presiding Saturday night over a solemn vigil service and ushering in Easter celebrations with a message of hope.

Francis entered the silent and darkened St. Peter's Basilica with just a single candle guiding him at the start of the Easter Vigil service. As he reached the altar, the basilica's flood lights turned on in a symbolic show of light after the darkness of Jesus' crucifixion.

During the lengthy service, which is due to end just before midnight, Francis is to baptize 12 adults hailing from around the world. A few hours hours later he'll preside over Easter Sunday Mass and offer his annual Easter blessing.

Francis is expected to offer a message of hope following his bleak condemnations on Good Friday and earlier of the attacks by Islamic extremists in Brussels and elsewhere.

During remarks Friday at the Colosseum capping the "Way of the Cross" procession re-enacting Jesus' crucifixion, Francis denounced the "terrorist acts committed by followers of some religions which profane the name of God and which use the holy name to justify their unprecedented violence."

While the pope was at the Colosseum, his chief alms-giver was out on the streets of Rome giving out sleeping bags to the homeless Friday night in a show of papal support for the city's least fortunate.