The Roman Catholic leader aimed his Easter greetings at “every house and every family, especially where the suffering is greatest, in hospitals, in prisons.” Francis prayed that Jesus would inspire people to “change hatred into love, vengeance into forgiveness, war into peace.”
As popes before him have, he urged Israelis and Palestinians to resume peace talks and end a conflict that “has lasted all too long.” And, in reflecting on the two-year-old Syrian crisis, Francis asked, “How much suffering must there still be before a political solution” can be found?
The pope also expressed desire for a “spirit of reconciliation” on the Korean peninsula, where North Korea says it has entered “a state of war” with South Korea. He also decried warfare and terrorism in Africa, as well as what he called the 21st century’s most extensive form of slavery: human trafficking.
The first pontiff to come from the Jesuits, an order with special concern for the poor, and the first pope to name himself after St. Francis, a medieval figure who renounced wealth to preach to the down-and-out, Francis lamented that the world is “still divided by greed looking for easy gain.”
Earlier, wearing cream-colored vestments, Francis celebrated Mass on the esplanade in front of the basilica at an altar set up under a white canopy. He frequently bowed his head as if in silent reflection.
Francis seems to bring good weather to Rome. As has happened on several of the other first public outdoor appearances of his fledgling papacy, huge throngs defied forecasts of heavy rain to turn out. They were rewarded by dry skies and some bursts of sun through clouds.
Vatican officials said by mid-ceremony, 250,000 people had come to the square, and thousands of others, including last-minute Romans, flocked to the square just in time to catch his blessing at the end.