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Pope's Easter Speech Pleas for Peace, Mentions Nigeria

31 Mar 2013

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Thousands were in St Peter's Square for the Urbi et Orbi address

Pope Francis has delivered a passionate plea for peace in his first Easter Sunday message since being elected.

Francis used his "Urbi et Orbi" address to call for peace in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, where he singled out "above all dear Syria".

"Christ is our peace, and through him we implore peace for all the world," the Pope told thousands in the square.

Easter is the most important festival in the Christian calendar and pilgrims have attended church across the world, reports the BBC.

Pope Francis, formerly Buenos Aires Archbishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio, was elected on 13 March, becoming the first non-European pope for almost 1,300 years.

He replaced Benedict XVI, who held the office for eight years and became the first pontiff in more than 700 years to resign, saying he no longer had the physical strength to continue.

In his Urbi et Orbi (To the city and the world) speech, Pope Francis began with a simple "Happy Easter!"

The Pope, who has begun his tenure by emphasising humility, went on: "Christ has risen! What a joy it is for me to announce this message... I would like it to go out to every house and every family, especially where the suffering is greatest, in hospitals, in prisons."

Later in his speech, Pope Francis said: "We ask the risen Jesus, who turns death into life, to change hatred into love, vengeance into forgiveness, war into peace."

The Pope then mentioned troubled regions of the world in turn.

"Peace for the Middle East, and particularly between Israelis and Palestinians, who struggle to find the road of agreement, that they may willingly and courageously resume negotiations to end a conflict that has lasted all too long.

"Peace in Iraq, that every act of violence may end, and above all for dear Syria, for its people torn by conflict and for the many refugees who await help and comfort."

For Africa, the Pope referred to Mali, Nigeria - "where attacks sadly continue" - the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic.

He added: "Peace in Asia, above all on the Korean peninsula: may disagreements be overcome and a renewed spirit of reconciliation grow."

Pope Francis concluded by saying: "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 21st Century."

The BBC's David Willey reports from Rome that the 76-year-old Pope Francis has already set a new style at the Vatican, reaching out easily to ordinary people and expressing his thoughts in a conversational way that is easy to understand.

He has surprised many of the clerics who work at the Vatican, eating in a communal dining room with other priests and clearly finding much traditional Vatican ceremonial tedious, our correspondent says.

Rather than moving into grand papal apartments, Pope Francis has remained in a Vatican guesthouse, where he has been inviting ordinary people to morning Mass.

One pilgrim in Rome on Sunday, Briton Tina Hughes, said that Francis represented a "new beginning".

"I think he brings something special. He connects with people. I feel good about him," she told Reuters.

In the days before Easter, the Pope had reached out to women and Muslims.

During a Holy Thursday Mass at a youth detention centre he washed and kissed the feet of 12 people, including two girls and two Muslims, and in a Good Friday procession referred to the "friendship of our Muslim brothers and sisters" in the Middle East.

After Easter, the Pope will have to begin tackling the key issues facing the Catholic Church, such as the Vatican bureaucracy, the future of the Vatican bank and the clerical sexual abuse scandal.

Vatican watchers will be keeping a keen eye on new appointments to key positions.


Tags: News, World, POPE, Easter, Speech, Peace

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