Peace outstretched hands open hearts

Amidst the celebratory atmosphere of Easter Sunday, Pope Francis delivered a powerful Easter message from the iconic central balcony of St Peter’s Basilica, urging the world to seek peace through compassion and reconciliation.

Apr 04, 2024

ROME: Amidst the celebratory atmosphere of Easter Sunday, Pope Francis delivered a powerful Easter message from the iconic central balcony of St Peter’s Basilica, urging the world to seek peace through compassion and reconciliation.

Addressing a crowd of over 100,000 people and a global audience estimated at over one billion, the Pope in his traditional Urbi et Orbi Easter message urged leaders to eschew violence and embrace dialogue to resolve conflicts plaguing regions like the Holy Land and Ukraine.

“At Easter, peace is never made with arms, but with outstretched hands and open hearts,” declared Pope Francis, encapsulating the essence of his message. His call for peace was not abstract but grounded in practical measures that could alleviate the suffering of millions affected by conflict.

Foremost among his concerns was the situation in the Holy Land, where the longstanding Israeli-Palestinian conflict continues to exact a heavy toll on civilians. Pope Francis appealed for immediate steps to ensure access to humanitarian aid for the besieged population of Gaza, where basic necessities are scarce amidst the ongoing violence. Additionally, he urged the release of hostages held captive since October 7 last year and called for an immediate ceasefire to halt further bloodshed.

In a bold move, Pope Francis proposed a general exchange of prisoners between Russia and Ukraine, recognising the potential for such a gesture to pave the way for peace in the war-torn region. By addressing the conflict directly and advocating for concrete measures, the Pope underscored his commitment to promoting reconciliation and ending human suffering.

Drawing parallels between the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the quest for peace, Pope Francis invoked the symbolism of the empty tomb as a metaphor for overcoming barriers and forging a path towards reconciliation. He emphasised the importance of forgiveness and fraternity in building a more just and peaceful world.

However, Pope Francis’ concerns extended beyond the Holy Land and Ukraine to encompass other regions ravaged by conflict and instability. He lamented the plight of Syria, where a protracted civil war has exacted a devastating toll on civilians, leaving behind a trail of death and destruction. Urging the international community to prioritise efforts to end the suffering of the Syrian people, the Pope underscored the moral imperative of collective action in the face of humanitarian crises.

Similarly, Pope Francis expressed solidarity with Lebanon, a country grappling with political turmoil and economic hardship exacerbated by recent hostilities on its border with Israel. He called upon the Risen Lord to console the Lebanese people and sustain their resilience in the face of adversity, reaffirming the country's role as a beacon of coexistence and pluralism in a troubled region.

Acknowledging the tensions in the Western Balkans, the pontiff offered a prayer that emphasised unity over division, expressing hope that ethnic, cultural, and confessional differences would be embraced as enriching facets of Europe’s diversity.

In echoing his sentiments from Christmas, he reiterated his support for the peace process between Armenia and Azerbaijan, urging the international community to aid in facilitating dialogue, supporting displaced populations, respecting religious sites, and expediting a lasting peace agreement.

The pontiff extended his prayers to all those suffering from violence, conflict, food insecurity, and the impacts of climate change globally, including victims of terrorism.

Expressing concern for Haiti, he prayed for an end to violence and bloodshed in the country, alongside progress towards democracy and fraternity.

Pope Francis, who has been to Myanmar and Bangladesh, prayed for the Rohingya people who are “beset by a grave humanitarian crisis” in both lands, and called for “a path to reconciliation in Myanmar, torn for years now by internal conflicts, so that every logic of violence may be definitively abandoned.”

In focusing on Africa, he prayed for peace on the continent, particularly for suffering populations in Sudan, the Sahel region, the Horn of Africa, the Kivu region in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the province of Capo Delgado in Mozambique. Additionally, he highlighted the urgent need to address drought-induced famine and hunger.

As the son of migrants, the pontiff emphasised the importance of solidarity with migrants and those facing economic hardships, urging compassion and hope for those in need. He emphasised the sanctity of life and condemned various forms of violence and exploitation, including human trafficking, calling on political leaders to prioritise efforts to combat this scourge. As he concluded his address, Pope Francis imparted his Easter blessings to all and reiterated his call for peace, urging the faithful to reflect on the Easter message of hope and to embrace the values of compassion, forgiveness, and reconciliation in building a brighter future for generations to come. — Agencies

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