ROME — In what he described this year as an “Easter of war,” Pope Francis spoke to tens of thousands of worshipers in St. Peter’s Square about the “fear and anguish” aroused by the conflict in Ukraine, adding that I hoped news of the suffering in Europe would also make people more aware of similar situations elsewhere.
Francis celebrated emerging from two years of the pandemic, during which he had delivered his Easter message under coronavirus restrictions, although he acknowledged that the solidarity he had sought as a legacy of the crisis had not prevailed.
But it was the events in Ukraine that weighed most heavily on the annual “Urbi et Orbi” (“To the city and the world”) speech. The country had been “severely tested by the violence and destruction of the cruel and senseless war into which it was dragged,” Francis said. At those words, applause erupted in the square. “Let there be a decision for peace. Let there be an end to the flexing of muscles while people suffer,” the Pope added.
Peace was possible, a primary duty and responsibility of all, Francis concluded, urging people to shout that message “from our balconies and in our streets” and for world leaders to heed the call.
He also alluded to the specter of possible nuclear conflict, citing a manifesto on the dangers of new weapons of mass destruction issued by philosopher Bertrand Russell in 1955 and signed by intellectuals and scientists, including Albert Einstein: “Should we put an end to humanity? ? race, or will humanity give up war?”
The message and blessing, given on Easter Sunday and Christmas Day, which traditionally include supplications for peace in the world’s conflicts, were delivered after Mass on the steps of the basilica. Some 100,000 people were present in the square, spilling out onto an adjacent avenue, according to the Vatican. It was a far cry from the few hundred who attended the celebration last year.
The conflict in Europe, Francis said, should make people “care more about other situations of conflict, suffering and pain.”
He cited “years of conflict and division” in the Middle East. Just days after violent clashes between Palestinians and Israeli riot police in Jerusalem left 150 injured, Francis prayed that “Israelis, Palestinians and all who dwell in the Holy City, along with pilgrims, experience the beauty of peace.” , live in fraternity and enjoy free access to the Holy Places in mutual respect for the rights of each one”.
Francis called for peace in Libya so that it finds “stability after years of tension”, and for Yemen, “which suffers from a conflict forgotten by all, with continuous victims”. He called for an end to “hatred and violence” in Myanmar, citing the “tragic humanitarian crisis” in Afghanistan that “brings great suffering to its people” as well as the struggles in African countries.
“We have seen too much blood, too much violence. Our hearts have also been filled with fear and anguish as many of our brothers and sisters have had to lock themselves up to be safe from bombing,” she said.
Francis last week called for an Easter truce in Ukraine, and has frequently called for an end to the war, which he has denounced as blasphemy and an “outrage against God.” His comments have not cited Russia’s President Vladimir V. Putin by name, an omission that has drawn criticism, although during a visit to Malta this month, Francis blamed the war on a “potentate sadly caught up in claims anachronistic nationalist interests”. .”
The pope has repeatedly called for humanitarian corridors, as well as sending envoys, two of his closest aides, to Ukraine to show his closeness to the Ukrainian people, and said earlier this month that he himself might visit kyiv.
On Sunday, he said he had the “many Ukrainian victims” on his heart, referring to “the millions of refugees and internally displaced people, the divided families, the elderly left to themselves, the broken lives and the cities razed to the ground. .” The faces of orphaned children fleeing the war in Ukraine, he said, reflected the same pain as “those other children who suffer around the world: those who die of hunger or lack of medical care, those who are victims of abuse and violence, and who are denied the right to be born.”
The Easter message is one of peace, Francis said, adding that it was especially welcome amid circumstances like these. “Let the peace of Christ enter our lives, our homes, our countries,” he said.