Tens of thousands of people gathered in St Peter’s Square in the Vatican as Pope Francis celebrated Palm Sunday Mass.

The new Pontiff arrived in an uncovered vehicle to start the Holy Week ceremonies that lead up to Easter Sunday, which takes place next week.

Pope Francis wore bright red robes over a white cassock and presided over the mass from an altar sheltered by a canopy on the steps of St Peter's Basilica.

Many of the cardinals who elected Pope Francis on 13 March were present in the square for the mass.

The run-up to Easter is considered the most important week in the calendar of the Catholic Church.

The Pope will lead six more liturgies during the week, culminating with the Easter Sunday Mass and Urbi et Orbi blessing.

Pope Francis yesterday held a 45-minute private meeting with his predecessor Pope Emeritus Benedict at the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo.