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Pope Prays for Peace on Easter

Pope Benedict XVI lights his candle from the paschal candle at the start of the Easter Vigil Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican on 23 April. (Photo: CNS/Paul Haring)  

26 Apr 2011 – by John Thavis

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — In an Easter blessing to the world, Pope Benedict XVI prayed that Christ’s resurrection may open paths of “freedom, justice and peace” for troubled populations of the Middle East and Africa.

The pope urged an end to violence in Libya and Ivory Coast, assistance to refugees flooding out of North Africa and consolation for the victims of the Japanese earthquake. He prayed for those persecuted for their Christian faith, and praised their courage.

He spoke from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica April 24 in his blessing “urbi et orbi” (to the city of Rome and to the world), after celebrating Mass for nearly 100,000 people in St. Peter’s Square. Broadcast to many countries and live-streamed on the Internet, it was the last major event on the 84-year-old pontiff’s heavy Holy Week schedule.

Pope Benedict said the resurrection of Christ must not be viewed as “the fruit of speculation or mystical experience.” It happened in a precise moment and marked history forever, giving human events new strength, new hope and new meaning, he said.

“The entire cosmos is rejoicing today,” and every person open to God has reason to be glad, he said.

But the joy of Easter contrasts with “the cries and laments that arise from so many painful situations: deprivation, hunger, disease, war, violence,” the pope said.

He prayed that “the splendor of Christ reach the peoples of the Middle East, so that the light of peace and of human dignity may overcome the darkness of division, hate and violence.” In Libya, he said, diplomacy and dialogue need to take the place of armed fighting, and the suffering must have access to humanitarian aid.

The pope alluded to the civil unrest that has spread throughout northern Africa and the Middle East, encouraging all citizens there, especially young people, to work for a society where poverty is defeated and where “every political choice is inspired by respect for the human person.” The refugees who have fled the conflicts deserve a generous response by other populations, he added.

The pope said the many forms of suffering in “this wounded world” make the Easter message all the more meaningful.

“In our hearts there is joy and sorrow, on our faces there are smiles and tears. Such is our earthly reality. But Christ is risen, he is alive and he walks with us,” he said. He then offered Easter greetings in 65 languages, including Chinese, Hindi and Swahili.

The pope arrived at the Easter liturgy in an open jeep, riding through a crowd that overflowed the square into adjacent streets. Many of the pilgrims were Poles who had already arrived in Rome for the May 1 beatification of Pope John Paul II.

As clouds gave way to sunshine, the pope celebrated Mass on an altar surrounded by flower gardens of yellow narcissus, cream-colored roses and blue delphiniums — all donated and shipped to Rome by Dutch florists.

After the Gospel reading, an Orthodox choir sang a hymn of psalms of the Byzantine liturgical tradition, marking the fact that the Catholic and Orthodox celebration of Easter fell on the same day this year.

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Tags: Middle East Easter