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Pope's Easter Message Calls for Peace in Mideast, Africa - 2004-04-11

Pope John Paul, who turns 84 next month, presided over Easter mass Sunday in Vatican City, attended by tens of thousands of the faithful. On the day Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, the pope prayed for an end to existing world conflicts.

The crowds filled St. Peter's square, after going through rigorous security measures, to celebrate Easter with Pope John Paul II. For the ailing pope, who suffers from Parkinson's Disease, it was the closing ceremony of the most demanding week in the Catholic calendar.

Wearing resplendent gold and white vestments, the pope appeared tired, but he spoke relatively clearly during the one-and-a-half hours of the mass. The pope has refused to allow his increasing immobility to stop him from officiating at Easter ceremonies.

Despite gray skies, there was a festive atmosphere to the open-air mass. St. Peter's Square was adorned in colorful tulips.

There were concerns that the Vatican could be the target of terrorism this Easter. Authorities stepped up controls, and pilgrims had their bags searched, and filed patiently past metal detectors to gain access to the square.

Before delivering his traditional Urbi et Orbi Easter blessing in 62 languages, the pope used his Easter message to speak of the evils that afflict mankind today.

Speaking from his wheeled throne, the pope prayed that the culture of life and love would render vain the logic of death. He called for forgiveness, rather than revenge, and called on world leaders to resolve the conflicts in Iraq, the Middle East and Africa. He prayed to the resurrected Christ to help all people work untiringly for the coming of a more just and united world.