Ukraine, Middle East, and international terrorism: Pope Francis condemned on Sunday the numerous “stumbling blocks” to peace in the world during his traditional message “Urbi et Orbi” for Easter.
In front of some 100,000 faithful massed in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican, the Argentine Jesuit expressed his “deep concern” because of the attacks of recent days” in the Middle East, which threaten according to him the “dialogue” between Israelis and Palestinians, against the background of renewed violence in the region.
As in 2022, his message gave a special place to the war in Ukraine. “Comfort the wounded and those who have lost loved ones to the war, and allow prisoners to return safely to their families,” he said, calling on the international community to “put an end to this war and to all the conflicts that bloody the world.
Citing some 20 countries, the head of the 1.3 billion Catholics mentioned “Lebanon, which is still seeking stability and unity,” Tunisia and its “social and economic problems,” the “serious socio-political and humanitarian crisis” in Haiti and the “victims of international terrorism” in Burkina Faso, Mali, Mozambique and Nigeria.
He also thought of the victims of the February earthquake in Turkey and Syria, which killed more than 56,000 people and caused damage estimated at more than 100 billion euros.
A few minutes earlier, Francis, whose health appears increasingly fragile and who uses a wheelchair because of knee pain, had presided at Easter Mass under a bright sun before taking a long walk in his “Papamobile” in the alleys of St. Peter’s Square, blessing the faithful in a warm atmosphere.
On Saturday evening, the 86-year-old Pope, who was hospitalized last week for bronchitis, presided over the Easter Vigil Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica for two and a half hours, in the presence of about 8,000 people.
On Friday, he had cancelled his participation in the traditional “Way of the Cross” organized in the Colosseum of Rome because of the cold, but he had presided as planned the office of the Passion.
Holy Week and Easter, which commemorate the death and resurrection of Christ, are the main highlights of the year in the Catholic calendar.