June 23. 2024. 12:26

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Pope appeals to Russians on Ukraine, decries Middle East violence


After suffering from bronchitis, Francis, 86, was forced to miss Friday’s outdoor service because of unseasonal chill - he presided over a solemn Easter Day Mass in St. Peter’s Square.

For the most joyous and important date in the Church’s liturgical calendar, a carpet of 38,000 flowers was laid on the square. It commemorated the day Christians believe Jesus rose from the dead. Both the Italian Carabinieri police and Vatican Swiss Guards honour units wore ceremonial attire to attract attention.

The traditional pomp and holy singing gave way to modern realities. Later, Francis went to St. Peter’s Basilica’s central balcony to give his twice-yearly Urbi et Orbi (to the city of the world) message. He addressed a crowd that the Vatican estimated to be around 100,000.

He spoke there from the spot where he was first elected pope in 2013.

He said, "Help the Ukrainian people in their journey to peace and shine the light of Easter on the people of Russia."

Since Russia invaded Ukraine last February, Francis has at most twice per week called Ukraine and its people "martyred" and used words like aggression and atrocities as a way to describe Russia’s actions.

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He asked God for help on Sunday to the "wounded" and those who had lost loved ones due to the war. Also, that the prisoners return home safe and sound to their families. All nations should open their hearts to the possibility of ending this war and all other conflicts in the world.

Francis, as he does every Easter, called for peace in Middle East. His appeal was made more urgent due to recent violence in Jerusalem, and cross border exchanges of fire that involved Israel, Lebanon, and Syria.

"On this day Lord, we entrust the city of Jerusalem to you, the first witness to your resurrection. "I am deeply concerned by the recent attacks that have threatened the trust-based climate and mutual respect that is needed to resume dialogue between Israelis & Palestinians so that peace may reign within the Holy City and throughout the region," he stated.

Tensions between Israel and Palestine have risen sharply since Israeli police raids on Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem last week, which caused outrage around the Arab world.

TROUBLED PLACES

Francis was seen in fine form and drove in a popemobile through the square, down the main boulevard that leads to the River Tiber, so that more people could see him.

Francis also spoke out about instability in Lebanon and expressed hope that the "martyred Rohingya" people of Myanmar would be treated fairly. He also called for more assistance for victims of the February earthquakes that claimed nearly 56,000 lives in Turkey and Syria.

The pope asked God to remember all those who are prevented from publicly and freely professing faith in Nicaragua, as he did in a section of his address.

The relations between Nicaragua’s government and the Catholic Church are very strained. The government has suspended diplomatic relations to the Vatican and banned outdoor Holy Week procesions this calendar year.

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