Pope Francis is presiding over a solemn Easter Vigil ceremony marked by heightened security fears following a spate of Islamic-inspired attacks in Europe.

Holding a single candle, Francis processed down the center aisle of a darkened St. Peter's Basilica on Saturday, symbolizing the darkness that fell after Jesus' crucifixion on Good Friday. When he reached the altar, the basilica's floodlights turned on, symbolizing the light of Christ's resurrection.

Saturday's late-night service came just hours after Francis presided over the evocative torch-lit Good Friday procession at Rome's Colosseum, where Francis repeatedly denounced the "shame" of the blood spilled by innocent children, women and migrants in the world's conflicts, shipwrecks and other tragedies.

On Sunday, he celebrates the joyful Easter Mass in a flower-filled St. Peter's Square.