— Rome — Pope Francis called on political leaders and the peoples they lead “to overcome the mindset of war,” with God’s help, and to adopt an attitude of fraternity. The pope made specific appeals for peace in several conflict zones, from Syria to Ukraine, to Nagorno-Karabakh.
Pope Francis noted the restrictions under which Christians in many parts of the world – owing to the pandemic and other reasons – are worshipping this Easter. “Once again this year,” Pope Francis said, “in various places many Christians have celebrated Easter under severe restrictions and, at times, without being able to attend liturgical celebrations.”
“We pray that those restrictions, as well as all restrictions on freedom of worship and religion worldwide, may be lifted and everyone be allowed to pray and praise God freely.”
He said that the risen Christ offers sure hope for all who suffer during the pandemic. He asked God to comfort the sick and grieving, “and sustain the valiant efforts of doctors and nurses.”
“Everyone,” Pope Francis said, “especially the most vulnerable among us, requires assistance and has the right to have access to necessary care.” He went on to say: “This is even more evident in these times when all of us are called to combat the pandemic.”
“Vaccines are an essential tool in this fight,” Pope Francis said, urging “the entire international community, in a spirit of global responsibility, to commit to overcoming delays in the distribution of vaccines and to facilitate their distribution, especially in the poorest countries.”
The Pope’s appeals came in remarks delivered after Easter Sunday Mass, when he gave the traditional urbi et orbi blessing on Easter Sunday – to the city and the world — from the Altar of the Chair in St. Peter’s Basilica.
Once again, only about 200 people were in attendance, owing to the Vatican’s Covid-19 protocols.
In his urbi et orbi message, Pope Francis prayed especially for the people of Africa, in particular for the sorely tried peoples of the Ethiopia’s Tigray region, Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado, Nigeria, and the Sahel region stretching from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea and splitting the Sahara from the continent’s central savannah region.
Pope Francis prayed that Our Lord’s resurrection might be the source of rebirth for refugees and migrants seeking escape from war and poverty. He had particular gratitude for Lebanon and Jordan, who have shown extraordinary hospitality to people fleeing Syria’s disastrous decade-old civil war.
Lebanon is still reeling from a terrible explosion in Beirut, which killed hundreds of people and wounded thousands of others last year, leaving more than a quarter million people homeless.
“May the people of Lebanon, who are undergoing times of difficulty and uncertainty,” Pope Francis prayed, “experience the consolation of the Risen Lord and find support from the international community in their vocation to be a land of encounter, coexistence and pluralism.”
Pope Francis prayed the Lord grant “peace and security” to Jerusalem, “so that it can embrace its calling to be a place of encounter where all can see one another as brothers and sisters, and where Israelis and Palestinians will rediscover the power of dialogue for reaching a stable solution that will enable the two states to dwell side by side in peace and prosperity.”
Recalling his recent visit to Iraq, Pope Francis prayed that the sorely tried people of that country “may continue along the path of peace and thus fulfil God’s dream for a human family hospitable and welcoming to all his children.”
The also prayed that Our Lord’s peace would visit Syria, Yemen, and Libya, “where at last there is hope that a decade of bloody strife and clashes may come to an end.”
“May all parties involved commit themselves effectively to ending conflicts,” Pope Francis prayed, “and allowing war-weary peoples to live in peace and to begin the reconstruction of their respective countries.”
Pope Francis also prayed for prisoners of war: “May [The Lord] grant that prisoners of conflicts, especially in eastern Ukraine and Nagorno-Karabakh, may return safely to their families,” he prayed, “and may he inspire world leaders to curb the race for new weaponry.”
“Amid the many hardships we are enduring,” Pope Francis said in conclusion, “let us never forget that we have been healed by the wounds of Christ.”
“In the light of the Risen Lord, our sufferings are now transfigured,” he went on to say. “Where there was death, now there is life. Where there was mourning, now there is consolation.”
“In embracing the cross, Jesus bestowed meaning on our sufferings and now we pray that the benefits of that healing will spread throughout the world.”