An estimated 300,000 pilgrims filled St Peter's Square

Pope Francis made the power of God’s mercy his central message this morning as he celebrated Mass at Sant’Anna church in Vatican City and delivered his first Angelus address to pilgrims in St Peter’s Square.

During his homily at the local church, Pope Francis said: “Mercy is the Lord’s most powerful message.

“If we are like the Pharisee before the altar, who said: ‘Thank you, Lord, for not making me like all the other men, and especially not like that fellow at the door, like that publican’… well, then we do not know the heart of the Lord, and we shall not ever have the joy of feeling this mercy.

“It is not easy to trust oneself to the mercy of God, because His mercy is an unfathomable abyss – but we must do it!”

He said that God “has the ability to forget… He kisses you, He embraces you, and He says to you: ‘Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now, on, sin no more.’ Only that counsel does He give you.

“We ask for the grace of never tiring of asking pardon, for He never tires of pardoning.”

The Pope greeted excited crowds after the Mass outside the church, with some chanting “Francesco! Francesco!”.

Later, he delivered his first Angelus address to an estimated 300,000 pilgrims in St Peter’s Square.

He returned to the theme of God’s mercy, saying: “Dear brothers and sisters the face of God is that of a merciful father who is always patient with us.”

He said he had been reading German Cardinal Walter Kasper’s book on the subject of God’s mercy. After praising the volume he joked: “But I’m not trying to flog the book to you.”

His parting words after leading the Angelus before the exuberant crowds were: “Don’t forget the Lord will never tire of forgiving us, but it is us who tire of asking forgiveness. Have a great Sunday and a great lunch.”