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ROME – Pope Francis on Easter Sunday said Jesus’s resurrection from the dead gave new hope to an often-weary humanity and issued a plea for peace in countries throughout the world marred by war and violent conflict.
Speaking to the roughly 100,000 gathered in St. Peter’s Square for his traditional Urbi et Orbi blessing to the city and the world, the pope said Easter, the “Pasch” celebration, marks a “passage, for in Jesus the decisive passage of humanity has been made: the passage from death to life, from sin to grace, from fear to confidence, from desolation to communion.”
“In him, the Lord of time and history, I would like to say to everyone, with heartfelt joy, Happy Easter!” he said.
Francis noted that on the day of Jesus’s resurrection, according to the Gospels, everything was done in a hurry, as the women who found the tomb empty ran to tell the other disciples, then Mary Magdalene ran to tell Peter about the resurrection.
The other disciples then ran to the empty tomb, and later that evening the disciples who met Jesus on the road to Emmaus “set out without delay” to tell others about what they had experienced.
“At Easter, then, the journey quickens and becomes a race, since humanity now sees the goal of its journey, the meaning of its destiny, Jesus Christ, and is called to make haste to meet him, who is the hope of the world,” the pope said.
He prayed that the world would also “make haste to progress on a journey of reciprocal trust: trust among individuals, peoples and nations.”
“May we allow ourselves to experience amazement at the joyful proclamation of Easter, at the light that illumines the darkness and the gloom in which, all too often, our world finds itself enveloped,” he said, and urged humanity to “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,” he said, and gave a shout-out to the hope given by “so many countries, beginning with those that offer assistance and welcome to all fleeing from war and poverty.”
However, he noted that there are often many “stumbling stones” along the journey that make it more difficult, and asked Jesus to “help us to run to meet you! Help us to open our hearts!”
Pope Francis then prayed for peace throughout the world, especially in countries and regions marked by war and violent conflict, beginning with the war between Russia and Ukraine.
He asked that God help the Ukrainian people “on their journey towards peace and shed the light of Easter upon the people of Russia.” He prayed that God would comfort the wounded and all those who have lost loved ones, and he prayed that the international community itself would “strive to end this war and all conflict and bloodshed in our world.”
Francis also prayed for peace in Syria and for all those who lost loved ones in the earthquake in Turkey and Syria, especially those who are now homeless after losing everything, asking that they would receive not only God’s consolation, but “assistance from the family of nations.”
He offered prayers for peace throughout the Middle East, including Lebanon and Jerusalem, which in recent days and months has been the site of increased protests and violence. He asked specifically that “there be a resumption of dialogue, in a climate of trust and reciprocal respect, between Israelis and Palestinians” so peace can prevail.
On Saturday, six people were wounded in a shooting in Jerusalem in what appeared to be a fight between Arab families. In addition, at the same time Israeli war planes and artillery struck sites in Syria following a rocket launch from Syria, apparently targeting Jerusalem.
Italy itself is still reeling from the death of an Italian citizen killed in a car-ramming attack in Tel-Aviv Friday night that left seven others wounded.
Francis in his message prayed for peace in Tunisia and Haiti, and for several African nations marred by violent conflict, including Ethiopia, and both the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan, which he visited earlier this year.
He asked that God support Christian communities “that today celebrate Easter in particular circumstances,” such as Eritrea and Nicaragua, where the bishop of Matagalpa, Rolando Álvarez, has been detained for treason since last August and who earlier this year was sentenced to 26 years in prison.
The pope asked God to remember “all who are prevented from freely and publicly professing their faith,” and prayed for victims of terrorism throughout the world, specifically naming Burkina Faso, Mali, Mozambique and Nigeria.
He also prayed for peace in Myanmar and for the Rohingya ethnic minority in the area as they face an often-targeted persecution.
Pope Francis asked that God give comfort to “refugees, deportees, political prisoners and migrants, especially those who are most vulnerable, as well as the victims of hunger, poverty and 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,” he said, and prayed 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.”
Francis closed his message voicing hope that Christians rediscover “the enjoyment of the journey, quicken the heartbeat of hope and experience a foretaste of the beauty of heaven!”
“Today, let us summon the energy to advance in goodness towards Goodness itself, which never disappoints,” he said, and asked God to “encourage us on our journey and repeat to us, as you did to the disciples on the evening of Easter: ‘Peace be with you!’”
Prior to giving the traditional Easter blessing, the pope presided over Mass in St. Peter’s Square, arriving in a wheelchair rather than joining the entry procession. During the Mass, attended by some 45,000 people, the pope skipped the homily, instead observing a moment of silent reflection.
He presided over the Easter vigil Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica Saturday, also arriving in a wheelchair and remaining seated for most of the liturgy. He presided over a Passion service in St. Peter’s Basilica Friday afternoon but skipped Friday evening’s Via Crucis due to “intense cold weather.”
However, the pope has participated in all of his other Holy Week events since Palm Sunday, albeit by presiding over the liturgies rather than celebrating. He is currently recovering from bronchitis after a brief hospital stay last week, being discharged Saturday, April 1.
Follow Elise Ann Allen on Twitter: @eliseannallen