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Francis Focuses Easter Message on Hope, With Prayers for an End to Global Conflicts

Pope Francis
Pope Francis bestows the plenary 'Urbi et Orbi' (to the city and to the world) blessing from the central lodge of the St. Peter's Basilica at The Vatican at the end of the Easter Sunday mass, Sunday, April 9, 2023. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

ROME (RNS) — The joy of Christ’s resurrection can bring much needed hope to a world ravaged by war, violence and death, Pope Francis said during his annual Easter address, delivered from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica after an outdoor Mass.

“Let us make haste to surmount our conflicts and divisions, and to open our hearts to those in greatest need. Let us hasten to pursue paths of peace and fraternity,” the pope said Sunday (April 8), before delivering his Easter blessing “urbi et orbi” (“to the city and to the world”).

“Let us rejoice at the concrete signs of hope that reach us from so many countries, beginning with those that offer assistance and welcome to all fleeing from war and poverty,” he said to the crowd gathered in St. Peter’s Square, estimated by the Vatican press office to be about 100,000.

The semi-annual blessing, also given on Christmas, offers a plenary indulgence, or the forgiveness of sins, to the faithful present and those watching on screens around the world.

Although his voice was slightly raspy after his recent recovery from a respiratory infection, Francis seemed in good spirits and warmly greeted the cheering crowd.

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In his address, the pope told the faithful present that on Easter, “the destiny of the world was changed.” The proclamation that Christ is “truly risen” is a reminder that “our hope is not an illusion, but the truth,” he said.

Nevertheless, there are “stumbling stones” that make it “difficult and demanding to hasten toward the Risen Lord,” said Francis, before praying for the conflict between Ukraine and Russia.

“Help the beloved Ukrainian people on their journey toward peace, and shed the light of Easter upon the people of Russia,” he prayed. “Comfort the wounded and all those who have lost loved ones because of the war, and grant that prisoners may return safe and sound to their families.”

Francis also prayed that the international community would work together and “strive to end this war and all conflict and bloodshed in our world, beginning with Syria, which still awaits peace.”

He also entrusted the city of Jerusalem to God, after a volatile week which saw Israeli forces raid the Al-Aqsa mosque and retaliatory attacks against Israeli citizens as well as tourists in Tel Aviv.

“On this day, Lord, we entrust to you the city of Jerusalem, the first witness of your resurrection. May there be a resumption of dialogue, in a climate of trust and reciprocal respect, between Israelis and Palestinians, so that peace may reign in the Holy City and in the entire region,” Francis prayed.

The pope also prayed for the people of Lebanon, Tunisia, Myanmar and Haiti who have been “sorely tried” by conflict, violence, persecution and economic hardship.

He also prayed for Christians in Nicaragua, Eritrea and “all who are prevented from freely and publicly professing their faith,” as well as victims of international terrorism in Burkina Faso, Mali, Mozambique and Nigeria.

Lastly, Francis prayed God would bring comfort to refugees, deportees, political prisoners and migrants, who often suffer due to “hunger, poverty, the dire effects of the drug trade, human trafficking and all other forms of slavery.”

“Lord, inspire the leaders of nations to ensure that no man or woman may encounter discrimination and be violated in his or her dignity; that in full respect for  human rights and democracy these social wounds may be healed; that the common good of the citizenry may be pursued always and solely; and that security and the conditions needed for dialogue and peaceful coexistence may be guaranteed,” the pope said.

This article originally appeared here.