Pope Celebrates Easter With Big Crowd 04/20 14:08
Marking Christianity's most hopeful day, Pope Francis made an Easter Sunday
plea for peace and dialogue in Ukraine and Syria, for an end to terrorist
attacks against Christians in Nigeria and for more attention to the hungry and
neediest close to home.
VATICAN CITY (AP) -- Marking Christianity's most hopeful day, Pope Francis
made an Easter Sunday plea for peace and dialogue in Ukraine and Syria, for an
end to terrorist attacks against Christians in Nigeria and for more attention
to the hungry and neediest close to home.
Well over 150,000 tourists --- Romans and pilgrims, young and old --- turned
out for the Mass that Francis celebrated at an altar set up under a canopy on
the steps of St. Peter's Basilica.
So great were their numbers that they overflowed from sprawling St. Peter's
Square, which was bedecked with row after row of potted daffodils, sprays of
blue hyacinths and bunches of white roses. Waving flags from the pope's native
Argentina as well as from Brazil, Mexico, Britain, Poland and many other
countries, they also filled the broad boulevard leading from the square to the
Easter is the culmination of Holy Week and marks Christian belief that Jesus
rose from the dead after his crucifixion.
Francis noted that this year the Catholic church's celebration of Easter
coincided with that of Orthodox churches, which have many followers in Ukraine.
Francis prayed that God would "enlighten and inspire the initiatives that
promote peace in Ukraine, so that all those involved, with the support of the
international community, will make every effort to prevent violence."
In eastern Ukraine, the holiday was marred by a deadly shooting Sunday
fueled by tensions between pro-Russian supporters in the east and those loyal
to an interim government in Kiev. The clash appeared to defy an international
agreement reached last week in hopes of ending months of unrest.
Francis also prayed that all sides in Syria will be moved to "boldly
negotiate the peace long awaited and long overdue." Syria has been wracked by a
three-year civil war that has cost 150,000 lives and forced millions to flee
Christians make up about 5 percent of Syria's population. In comments to
mark Easter there, the Greek Orthodox patriarch vowed that Christians there
"will not submit" to extremists who attack "our people and holy places."
Francis makes a pilgrimage to Jordan, the Palestinian territories and Israel
next month, so on Easter he prayed that hopes sparked by the resumption of
Mideast peace negotiations will be sustained.
Thousands of pilgrims from around the world flocked to the celebrate Easter
in the Holy Land, where Christian communities, as well as elsewhere in the
Middle East, have been declining as the faithful flee regional turmoil.
Francis also spoke of those suffering in Africa from an epidemic of deadly
Ebola and urged a halt to "brutal terrorist attacks" in parts of Nigeria.
Nigerians marked Easter with heightened security against a spreading Islamic
uprising, mourning the deaths of 75 bomb blast victims and fearful of the fate
of 85 abducted schoolgirls. The homegrown terror network Boko Haram has claimed
responsibility for last week's rush-hour explosion in the capital, Abuja, and
threatened more attacks.
In Venezuela, there have been hopes Vatican mediation can help end the
country's violent political unrest, and Francis urged that "hearts be turned to
reconciliation and fraternal concord" there.
But Francis' Easter message also urged people to pay attention to the needy
close to home. He said the "good news" of Easter's joy means "leaving ourselves
behind and encountering others, being close to those crushed by life's
troubles, sharing with the needy, standing at the side of the sick, elderly and
He denounced the "scourge of hunger," which he said was "aggravated by
conflicts and by the immense wastefulness for which we are often responsible."
Francis has set an austere tone in his papacy, forsaking an ornate apostolic
palace apartment for a simple guesthouse on the Vatican grounds and rejecting
limousines for regular cars.
Cheering and applauding, the crowd tried to catch a glimpse of the pontiff
as he circled around in his white popemobile before going to the basilica's
balcony to deliver his commentary.
Reflecting the worldwide reach of the Catholic church, faithful read aloud
prayers and passages from the Bible in Hindi, French, Chinese, German, Korean,
Spanish, Italian and English.