Giovedì, 20 Settembre 2018

Francis appeals for peace in first Easter message


(By Paul Virgo)
Vatican City, March 31 - Pope Francis appealed for
peace in conflict-hit areas of the Middle East and Africa and
called for an easing of tensions between North and South Korea
before around 250,000 people in his first Easter Sunday message
as pontiff.
Speaking from the central balcony of St Peter's Basilica,
where he made his first appearance as pope after being elected
Benedict XVI's successor on March 13, Francis called on Israelis
and Palestinians to "willingly and courageously resume
negotiations to end a conflict that has lasted all too long".
He also called for an end to violence in Iraq and Syria.
"How much blood has been shed (in Syria)?" he said. "And
how much suffering must there still be before a political
solution to the crisis will be found?".
He made an appeal for disagreements to "be overcome and a
renewed spirit of reconciliation grow" in the Korean peninsula.
He pleaded for terrorist groups to stop taking hostages in
Nigeria and for an end of conflict in the African continent,
singling out the situations in Mali, the Democratic Republic of
Congo and the Central African Republic.
Francis also condemned human trafficking, drug trafficking
and overexploitation of natural resources in his Urbi et Orbi
(to the city and the world), a papal address and blessing that
is given on certain special occasions.
"Peace in the whole world, still divided by greed looking
for easy gain, wounded by the selfishness which threatens human
life and the family, selfishness that continues in human
trafficking, the most extensive form of slavery in this
twenty-first century," the 76-year-old Argentine pope said.
"Peace to the whole world, torn apart by violence linked to
drug trafficking and by the iniquitous exploitation of natural
resources. Peace to this our Earth.
"May the risen Jesus bring comfort to the victims of
natural disasters and make us responsible guardians of
As part of the Urbi et Orbi, Francis granted a plenary
indulgence to all the faithful following the Mass in St Peter's
Square and on radio, TV and "new communications media".
Easter Sunday commemorates the day of the resurrection of
Jesus, making it the most important moment in the Church's
liturgical calendar.
"What a joy it is for me to announce this message: Christ
is risen! I would like it to go out to every house and every
family, especially where the suffering is greatest, in
hospitals, in prisons," he said.
"What does it mean that Jesus is risen? It means that the
love of God is stronger than evil and death itself; it means
that the love of God can transform our lives and let those
desert places in our hearts bloom".
Earlier on Sunday, Francis, dressed in simple white
vestments, presided over the Easter Mass in the square.
He had a ride in an open-top jeep around St Peter's Square
between the Mass and the Easter message.
He brought some in the crowd to tears when he stopped
during the tour to embrace and kiss some babies and disabled
people, including one severely disabled boy.
Francis's relaxed, humble, off-the-cuff style has
contrasted with Benedict's more reserved approach and helped him
already become enormously popular among the world's 1.2 billion
He has also won plaudits for his focus on the weakest and
poorest sections of society, as reflected by gestures such as
him washing and kissing the feet of 12 juvenile offenders in a
Rome detention centre in a Easter ritual Thursday.
This seems to have helped the Church to put behind it, at
least for the moment, the many problems that to some degree
overshadowed the run-up conclave to elect Francis, such as the
scandals related to child-sex abuse by priest in various parts
of the world.
Before Francis, "when we spoke of the Church, we did so
without a smile," said Enzo Bianchi, the head of Italy's Bose
monastic movement, in Italian daily La Stampa.
"Now once again, we can look at the Church with sympathy
and restore trust in an institution that appeared to many to be
far-removed and hardly trustworthy".

Francis, who was elected as pope on March 13 after his
predecessor Benedict XVI shocked the world last month by
announcing he was stepping down, posted a message on the papal
Twitter account before Sunday's Mass.
"Accept the risen Jesus into your life," read the post on
the @Pontifex account.
"Even if you have been far away, take a small step towards
him: he awaits you with open arms".

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