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Pope Francis Urges Russians to Seek Truth About Ukraine and Prays for Middle East Peace in Easter Message

9. apr. 2023 15:39 – Updated Apr 9 2023 15:40

In his Easter message, Pope Francis urges Russians to search for the truth about the Russian authorities’ invasion of Ukraine. He also prays for peace for the Middle East.

The 86-year-old Pope led a solemn Easter Sunday Mass in the sun in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday after, as a result of unusually cool weather on Good Friday, he had to drop participation in the walk of the cross after he was recently discharged from hospital where he had been admitted with bronchitis.

38,000 flowers donated by the Netherlands covered St. Peter’s Square on what is the most important and joyous day in the church’s liturgical calendar. On Easter Sunday, Christians remember that Jesus rose from the dead. Guards of honor from the Vatican Swiss Guard and the Italian carabinieri police, both forces in ceremonial suits, paid attention.

But the traditional pomp and splendor and solemn singing were afterwards replaced by the more modern reality. Pope Francis later went up to the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica where he gave his traditional blessing of the world and the city – urbi et orbi. There he spoke before a crowd that the Vatican estimated was around 100,000 people.

Ukraine and Russia

From the pulpit, in the same place where he was first introduced as Pope in 2013, he spoke of “the darkness and gloom in which our world is too often enveloped”. He asked God for peace.

– Help the beloved Ukrainian people on their way to peace, and throw the Easter candle over the people of Russia, said Pope Francis.

After Russia invaded Ukraine last February, Pope Francis has referred to Ukraine and its people as martyrs at least twice a week, and he has used terms such as aggression and atrocities to describe the Russian authorities’ actions in Ukraine.

On Sunday, he asked God to “comfort the wounded and all those who have lost loved ones because of the war, and ensure that prisoners of war can return safely and whole to their families. Open the hearts of the entire world community in the search for an end to this war and all conflicts and all bloodshed in our world”.

Middle East

As he does every Easter, Pope Francis prayed for peace for the Middle East. His call this Easter came at a time when there is a new development of violence in Israel, and where there are attacks across the borders between Israel and Lebanon, and Israel and Syria.

– On this day, Lord, we entrust you with the city of Jerusalem, the first witness of your resurrection. I express deep concern for the attacks of these last days which threaten the hope for an atmosphere filled with trust and mutual respect, which is needed to resume the dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians, so that peace can reign in the Holy City and in the whole region, the Pope said .

The situation has become significantly more tense between Israel and the Palestinians after Israeli police last week entered the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, on the grounds that there were armed Palestinians there. The action led to sharp reactions from the Arab world.

Nicaragua concern

In the time between the Easter Mass on Sunday and the urbi et orbi message, Pope Francis appeared in good form. He was driven around St. Peter’s Square and down the main road to the river Tiber in the popemobile, so that even more people could see him.

In his message on Sunday, Pope Francis also mentioned the unstable situation in Lebanon. He expressed hope that the Rohingya in Myanmar, whom he referred to as martyrs, can experience justice. The Pope also asked for more help for the victims of the earthquakes in February in which almost 56,000 people lost their lives in Turkey and Syria.

In the speech, the Pope also mentioned Nicaragua. He asked God to “remember all those who are prevented from expressing their faith freely and publicly”.

The relationship between the government of Nicaragua and the Catholic Church in the country is very bad. The government has suspended diplomatic ties with Vatican City and has introduced a ban on Easter celebrations this year.

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