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Gerard O’ConnellApril 09, 2023
Pope Francis gives his blessing "urbi et orbi" (to the city and the world) from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican after celebrating Easter morning Mass April 9, 2023. At the far right is 94-year-old Albanian Cardinal Ernest Simoni. (CNS photo/Chris Warde-Jones)

Pope Francis delivered a stirring Easter Message for peace to the 100,000 people in St. Peter’s Square and to a humanity torn by what he has described as a Third World War, as he proclaimed that Christ has risen from the dead.

He called on the Risen Christ “to open the hearts of the entire international community to strive to end” the war in Ukraine and the other conflicts in the world, beginning with Syria.

He asked Christ to help the international community “to make haste to surmount our conflicts and divisions, to open our hearts to those in greatest need” and “to pursue paths of peace and fraternity.”

He called on the international community to build “reciprocal trust: trust among individuals, peoples and nations,” something that is lacking but urgently needed today among the 19 countries that he mentioned in his message, including Ukraine and Russia as well as Palestine and Israel.

He prayed to the Risen Christ to “help the beloved Ukrainian people on their journey towards peace and shed the light of Easter upon the people of Russia.” He asked him to “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.” Pope Francis and the Holy See have been engaged in ongoing efforts for the release of prisoners in the Ukraine war.

Like his predecessors for more than 70 years, Pope Francis today also prayed for peace in the Holy Land as tensions escalate there. He said: “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.”

He prayed that the risen Jesus may console those suffering from the earthquake in Turkey and Syria and called on the international community to provide the many who are homeless with the assistance they need.

He appealed for assistance for Lebanon, “which still seeks stability and unity, so that divisions may be overcome, and all citizens cooperate for the common good of the country.”

He asked the risen Jesus to “be mindful of the beloved people of Tunisia, and in particular the young and those suffering from social and economic hardship, so that they may not lose hope and may work together to build a future of peace and fraternity.”

He prayed for Haiti, “which has long experienced a grave social, economic and humanitarian crisis” and urged support for “the efforts of political actors and the international community to seek a definitive solution to the many problems that afflict that sorely tried people.”

Pope Francis prayed to the risen Christ to “consolidate the processes of peace and reconciliation” in Ethiopia and in South Sudan and “to grant an end to violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.”

He called on the risen Lord “to sustain” the Christian communities in Nicaragua and Eritrea “that today celebrate Easter in particular circumstances,” and to “remember all who are prevented from freely and publicly professing their faith.” Significantly, Francis had invited the 94-year-old Albanian cardinal Ernesto Simoni, who had spent many years in prison under the communist dictator Enver Hoxha, to sit next to him on the balcony as he delivered his Easter message.

He prayed that the risen Jesus may console those suffering.

Francis also prayed for “the victims of international terrorism,” especially in Burkina Faso, Mali, Mozambique and Nigeria.

He also asked the risen Lord to “help Myanmar to pursue paths of peace, and enlighten the hearts of leaders, so that the deeply afflicted Rohingya may encounter justice.”

Pope Francis prayed especially that the Risen Lord may help “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.”

He asked the risen Lord to “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 86-year old pope, who was in hospital just over one week ago suffering from acute bronchitis, has recovered and has presided over most of the main Holy Week liturgical ceremonies. (He refrained from attending the Way of the Cross at the Colosseum due to cold weather.)

Francis delivered his delivered his Easter message, called the “Urbi et Orbi,” intended to address the city of Rome (urbi) and to the world (orbi), from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica where he first appeared to the world 10 years ago immediately after his election. He spoke in Italian after he had presided over Mass on the steps of the basilica, surrounded by a floral decoration of 35,000 flowers, the gift of flower producers of the Netherlands. Francis began by proclaiming the resurrection of Jesus from the dead some 2000 years ago to his global audience, following on television or the social media.

“Christ is risen” and “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,” he said.

He called on the church and the world “to rejoice” because “we are not alone: Jesus, the Living One, is with us, forever.” And “today our hopes no longer come up against the wall of death, for the Lord has built us a bridge to life.”

“At Easter the destiny of the world was changed,” he said. He reminded people that this Sunday also “coincides with the most probable date of Christ’s resurrection, we can rejoice to celebrate, by pure grace, the most important and beautiful day of history.”

Pope Francis said, “Brothers, sisters, may we 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.”

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