Pope in Easter message calls for peace and religious tolerance
By Peter Mayer Apr 8, 2012, 10:30 GMT
Vatican City - Pope Benedict XVI celebrated Easter Sunday Mass and in his traditional message urged peace in Syria and conflict-ridden parts of Africa while also calling for greater religious tolerance.
The pontiff celebrated Mass in St Peter's Square before tens of thousands of people who had gathered under an overcast sky which gradually gave way to sunlight.
Afterwards, Benedict appeared on the loggia of St Peter's Basilica to the cheers of those below.
'Surrexit Christus, spes mea (Christ, my hope, has risen)' Benedict said reciting a traditional Easter phrase in Latin.
Continuing his message in Italian, the pontiff said Jesus' resurrection which Christian celebrate at Easter, offers 'hope and comfort' to the world.
'In a particular way for those Christian communities suffering most for their faith on account of discrimination and persecution,' Benedict said.
He then turned to some of the world's trouble spots, beginning with Syria urging 'an end to bloodshed and an immediate commitment to the path of respect, dialogue and reconciliation, as called by the international community.'
Elsewhere in the Middle East, the Iraqi people should be encouraged to 'spare no effort in pursuing the path to stability and development,' while in the Holy Land of the Bible, 'may Israelis and Palestinians courageously take up anew the peace process,' Benedict said.
The pontiff also offered a prayer that the Lord may 'sustain the Christian communities of the African continent ... and make them peacemakers and agents of development in the societies to which they belong'.
He also implored comfort for the suffering populations of the Horn of Africa. Referring to the tensions between mostly Muslim Sudan and mostly Christian South Sudan, the pontiff asked God to 'grant their inhabitants the power of forgiveness.'
Benedict also called for an end to the unrest in Mali and 'the savage terrorist attacks' in Nigeria where Christians have often been targeted.
The pontiff imparted his traditional Urbi et Orbi (To the city and to the world) blessing and expressed his Easter good-wishes in 65 languages including Arabic, Japanese, Swahili and his native German.
'May the grace and joy of the Risen Christ be with you all,' the spiritual leader of the world's almost 1.2 billion Roman Catholics said in the English version.
Sunday's ceremony was broadcast to dozens of countries worldwide.
It brought an end to a busy Holy Week for Benedict who turns 85 this month.
Late Saturday, the pontiff led an Easter Vigil inside St Peter's Basilica and on Friday night he presided over the traditional Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) procession around the Colosseum.
On Holy Thursday, the pontiff washed the feet of 12 priests in a traditional gesture commemorating Jesus' act of humility to his disciples at the Last Supper.
Later Sunday, Benedict was to travel to the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo south of Rome where he will stay for a few days of rest, the Vatican said.
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