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Pope Denounces Mideast Violence in Easter Message - 2002-03-31

Pope John Paul II has used his Easter message to denounce the ongoing violence in the Holy Land. At least 100,000 people turned out in Rome's Saint Peter's Square to hear the pope's words and receive his special Easter blessing.

The pontiff used his Easter Sunday message to the world to appeal for an end to violence in the Middle East. He urged political and religious leaders to work for a resumption of negotiations.

The pope told Christians to "work for peace so that peace may end the dramatic spiral of abuse of power and killings that bloody the Holy Land, plunged again these very days into horror and despair." He said it seems that "war has been declared on peace."

Pope John Paul said nothing is resolved through reprisal and retaliation. "This is truly a great tragedy," the pope said. "No one can remain silent and inactive, no political or religious leader."

Despite a knee problem, the 81-year-old pope appeared in good form during Easter Mass which was attended by tens of thousands of people in a sunlit Saint Peter's Square. At the end of the Mass the pope read the world Easter greetings in 62 languages, including Hebrew and Arabic.

This holy week the pope has been seen to suffer from a bad knee which forced him to cede his place to cardinals at some of the ceremonies. On Saturday, the Pope celebrated an Easter vigil Mass in St. Peter's Basilica. For the service the pope was seated before an altar placed at floor level so that he would not have to climb the steps.

Doctors had warned the pope he should avoid standing. One Italian newspaper reported Sunday that the pope would undergo surgery on his knee next week. But the surgeon who would operate said nothing has been decided yet and that further examinations were needed.

Easter is the busiest time for the pope and the most significant moment in the Catholic Church's calendar. For the first time in his 23-year papacy the pope was forced to scale back his participation at Holy Week ceremonies.