Pope's First Easter Mass Sends Messages Of PeacePope Francis called for peace before a crowd of tens of thousands in St. Peter's Square on Sunday. He called for reconciliation in the Korean Peninsula, an end to the conflicts in Syria and between Israelis and Palestinians.
The sun competed with clouds in the sky, but the square was a riot of floral color in Rome, where chilly winter has postponed the blossoming of many flowers. The pope advised people to let love transform their lives, or as he put it, "let those desert places in our hearts bloom."
After celebrating Mass along with more than 250,000 faithful, Pope Francis delivered a plea for peace in his first Easter Sunday message to the world, decrying the seemingly endless conflicts in the Middle East and on the Korean Peninsula.
Since the start of his papacy on March 13, Francis has repeatedly put his concern for the poor and suffering at the center of his messages, and the Easter speech he delivered from the balcony of St. Peter's Basilica reflected his push for peace and social justice.
Before delivering his Easter message, Pope Francis celebrated Easter Mass on the esplanade in front of the basilica.
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Tens of thousands gathered to hear Pope Francis' blessing.
Pope Francis wished a "Happy Easter" greeting could reach "every house and every family, especially where the suffering is greatest, in hospitals, in prisons." Francis prayed that Christ would help people "change hatred into love, vengeance into forgiveness, war into peace."
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After the Mass in St. Peter's Square, Francis shared in the crowd's exuberance.
Argentinian flags waved for the pontiff; Pope Francis is from Buenos Aires, Argentina, the first pope from the Americas.
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Aboard an open-topped popemobile, Francis took a lighthearted spin through the joyous gatherers, kissing babies and patting children on the head.
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Pope Francis celebrated his first Easter Sunday Mass praying for world peace and urging a diplomatic solution to the standoff on the Korean peninsula.
Only two weeks after his election, the first pope from the developing world continues to make his mark on the Catholic Church.
St. Peter's Square was bedecked with flowers and packed with joyous pilgrims and tourists as Pope Francis celebrated Easter Mass.
In his first message to the city and to the world, Francis urged peace for the Middle East and for Israelis and Palestinians to resume negotiations to end a conflict that has lasted too long.
"Peace in Iraq," Francis said, "that every act of violence may end, and above all, for dear Syria. ... How much suffering must there still be before a political solution can be found?"
The Argentine-born pope also decried terrorism in the war-torn countries of Africa: Mali, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic. He appealed for peace in Asia, especially on the Korean Peninsula. May disagreements be overcome, he said, and a renewed spirit of reconciliation grow.
Francis' most intense appeal was for what he called a world divided by greed, looking for easy gain, wounded by selfishness. He singled out human trafficking, calling it the most extensive form of slavery in this 21st century. He urged peace for a world torn apart by violence linked to drug trafficking and by the iniquitous exploitation of natural resources.
In keeping with his humble image, Francis wore simple unadorned vestments and celebrated the Mass alone, without his cardinals. In another contrast with his predecessor, the rituals this holy week have been shorter than in past years.
The new pope has struck a chord with his direct language and by referring to himself as the bishop of Rome rather than supreme pontiff.
One of Francis' most surprising acts was at the holy Thursday ritual last week, when, in an unprecedented move, he washed the feet of two women. This raised eyebrows among traditionalists, who say that only men can partake of the rite since Jesus' apostles were all male.
Vatican analysts say it's too early to say whether Francis is ushering in a Catholic Church spring; up to now the changes have been in tone and symbolism, but they've already galvanized the hopes of many Catholics that the church will soon embrace needed and substantial reforms.