VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI led a crowd of faithful in Palm Sunday Mass and lamented that man's amazing achievements have increased the possibilities for evil as well as good.
Waving palm fronds and olive branches, tens of thousands of pilgrims and tourists packed St. Peter's Square on a sunny, breezy day for the start of Holy Week ceremonies.
Benedict, wearing crimson-and-gold colored robes, silently observed a long and solemn procession of prelates and rank-and-file faithful as a choir's voices rang out across the square, and he blessed the palms and olive branches.
Palm Sunday's liturgy recalls Jesus' triumphant entry into Jerusalem.
After clerics sang a nearly hourlong recounting from the Gospels of the events which led to Jesus' suffering and crucifixion, Benedict delivered a homily invoking people's fragility when faced with suffering and limitations.
"Mankind has managed to accomplish so many things: we can fly! We can see, hear and speak to one another from the farthest ends of the earth," the pope told the faithful.
"And yet the force of gravity which draws us down is powerful," Benedict said.
"With the increase of our abilities there has been an increase not only of good. Our possibilities for evil have increased and appear like menacing storms above history," he added.
Benedict also referred to recent natural disasters that man has been unable to control.
"Our limitations have also remained," the pope said.
Benedict, who turned 84 on Saturday, was beginning a busy week of public appearances, including a nighttime Way of the Cross procession at the Colosseum on Friday. Crowds of pilgrims and tourists have been arriving in Rome for the week, which will culminate in Easter Sunday Mass on April 24.
Even bigger crowds are expected for May 1, when Benedict will beatify his predecessor Pope John Paul II in St. Peter's Square.