Well, if there’s one thing the Vatican and Miss World have in common, it’s a shared devotion to world peace. In his Easter Sunday message, Pope Francis called for peace “above all” in the Middle East, specifically referencing the “immense humanitarian tragedy” occurring in both Syria and Iraq. He also used the traditional Easter Sunday message to pray for the victims of Kenya’s Garissa attack, and denounce the persecution of Christians in many lands.
The dismal weather Sunday morning, with rain lashing St. Peter’s Square, did little to deter the pope’s audience. Tens of thousands of people took shelter beneath umbrellas and peered up at the pontiff, eager to hear his words. The Easter message — known as Urbi et Orbi (to the city and the world) — typically functions as a papal commentary on current events, and is given from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Square.
Peace was uttered like a mantra throughout the speech, in an oration that was both cognizant of the world’s woes and tentatively hopeful. “May constant prayer rise up from all people of goodwill for those who lost their lives — I think in particular of the young people who were killed last Thursday at Garissa University College in Kenya,” he said. As he spoke, Easter masses in that country commemorated those slain in the terror attack.
Francis also took the opportunity to mention publicly for the first time the nuclear framework recently agreed to in Switzerland between a U.S.-led diplomatic coalition and Iran. It was a brief moment of lightness in a fairly bleak landscape. “In hope we entrust to the merciful Lord the framework recently agreed to in Lausanne,” he said, “that it may be a definitive step toward a more secure and fraternal world.”
Other conflict situations Francis referred to included the Holy Land, Ukraine, Libya, Yemen, Nigeria, Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Syria and Iraq — countries torn apart by internal struggles and the ascendant Islamic State — were the first to be mentioned specifically. “We ask for peace, above all, for Syria and Iraq,” the Pope said, “that the roar of arms may cease and that peaceful relations may be restored among the various groups which make up those beloved countries.”
As The Guardian points out, this year’s address mirrors, in many ways, that of last Easter. A year ago, the pontiff prayed for the relief of refugees “suffering a brutal persecution” in Iraq and Syria. The situation in those countries has only deteriorated. Last month, according to The Guardian, Francis met with the brother of David Haines, a British aid worker beheaded last year in Syria by ISIS.
Pope Francis concluded the speech with a broader brush, praying for the victims of drug dealers and arms dealers, and for those enslaved. In his final comments, he said:
May the marginalized, the imprisoned, the poor and the migrants who are so often rejected, maltreated and discarded, the sick and the suffering, children, especially those who are victims of violence; all who today are in mourning, and all men and women of goodwill, hear the consoling voice of the Lord Jesus: ‘Peace to you!'
The Easter address was somewhat typical of Pope Francis, an Argentinian pontiff who has consistently maintained a global, worldly message. Before the speech, a multilingual mass was held for thousands of attendees, with prayers in both Arabic and Chinese. By the end of the ceremony, Washington Post reports, the rain had stopped. Francis was driven out into the square in the drizzle, to wave at followers from his Popemobile.
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