Pope Francis has appealed to the world’s leaders to hear the cry for peace in this “Easter of war”.
In his message “Urbi et Orbi” (to the city and the world) delivered to thousands of pilgrims in St Peter’s Square, Rome, he said Ukraine was sorely tried by the violence and destruction of the cruel and senseless war into which it was dragged.
“Let there be a decision for peace. May there be an end to the flexing of muscles while people are suffering”, he said.
He thanked people who had taken in refugees from Ukraine, and spoke of the terrible stories of suffering and death.
“I hold in my heart all the many Ukrainian victims, the millions of refugees and internally displaced persons, the divided families, the elderly left to themselves, the lives broken and the cities razed to the ground,” he said.
Comparing today to the Easter Sunday story when disciples found an empty tomb, he said “Our eyes, too, are incredulous on this Easter of war. We have seen all too much blood, all too much violence. Our hearts, too, have been filled with fear and anguish, as so many of our brothers and sisters have had to lock themselves away in order to be safe from bombing.
“Let us all commit ourselves to imploring peace, from our balconies and in our streets! May the leaders of nations hear people’s plea for peace.”
In his address, he listed other countries where there is conflict and called for reconciliation in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Libya, Myanmar, the Democratic Republic of Congo and among Israelis and Palestinian.
There have been several days of clashes with Israeli police around the Al-Aqsa Mosque built on Temple Mount, holy places in Islam and Judaism, he called for peace in Jerusalem for Christians, Jews and Muslims alike. He urged free access to holy places in mutual respect for the rights of each.
Pope Francis, who is 85, suffers from recurring leg pain and read most of his address while sitting down, from the balcony of St Peter’s Basilica.