ROME — Pope Francis celebrated his first Easter Mass in Saint Peter’s Square attended by a huge crowd. In his Urbi et Orbi (to the city and the world) message and blessing, he called for peace in the world.
Tens of thousands turned out for the first Easter Mass celebrated by Pope Francis, in a square beautifully adorned by multi-colored flowers and shrubs.
A procession of cardinals and priests filed out of Saint Peter's basilica at the start of the service. Pope Francis was among them dressed in simple white vestments. The icon of the resurrected Jesus was unveiled and the pope bowed his head as the Gospel was sung in Latin.
At the end of the Mass, the pope greeted the cardinals one by one. Then he toured Saint Peter's Square in his white open-air jeep as the thousands present cheered and waved flags. Pope Francis stopped to kiss babies. In particular, he hugged a disabled child for a few moments.
In his Easter message from the central balcony of the basilica, Pope Francis called for peace for the Middle East, and particularly between Israelis and Palestinians, who he hoped might willingly and courageously resume negotiations to end a conflict that has lasted all too long.
He urged for peace in Iraq, calling for every act of violence to end, and in Syria, for its people suffering from conflict and for the many refugees who await help and comfort.
Pope Francis had thoughts for peace in Africa. He urged for unity and stability to be restored in Mali; singled out Nigeria, where attacks continue, threatening the lives of many innocent people, and where great numbers of people, including children, are held hostage by terrorist groups.
He prayed for peace in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and in the Central African Republic, where he said many have been forced to leave their homes and continue to live in fear.
The pope also called for peace in Asia, above all on the Korean peninsula where he urged that disagreements be overcome and a renewed spirit of reconciliation grow.
Pope Francis called for peace in the whole world, still divided, he said, by greed looking for easy gain, wounded by the selfishness that threatens human life and the family, and continued in human trafficking, which he called the most extensive form of slavery in the 21st century.
The Easter Mass was the culmination of a busy week for Pope Francis, which included visiting a detention center and washing the feet of twelve inmates on Holy Thursday, and a candle-lit procession around Rome’s ancient Colosseum on Good Friday.