Peace is not made with arms, says Pope in Easter plea

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Pope Francis waved to crowds at the Vatican on the day of the Easter Mass, at St. Peter's SquareImage source, Reuters

Pope Francis has used his traditional Easter message to call for a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip and for the return of Israeli hostages held by Hamas.

The 87-year-old pontiff led Easter Mass at the Vatican in front of thousands, despite concerns over his health.

Referring to conflicts around the world, the Pope pleaded not to “yield to the logic of weapons and rearming”.

“Peace is never made with arms, but with outstretched hands and open hearts,” he said.

Tens of thousands of worshippers gathered in St Peter’s Square to hear the Pope.

As fresh truce negotiations between Israel and Hamas were due to begin, Pope Francis said: “I appeal once again that access to humanitarian aid be ensured to Gaza, and call once more for the prompt release of the hostages seized on 7 October and for an immediate ceasefire in the Strip.

Referring to the impact of the war on civilians, beginning with children, he said: “How much suffering we see in their eyes! With those eyes, they ask us: Why? Why all this death? Why all this destruction? War is always an absurdity and a defeat.”

Pope Francis also warned countries against re-arming themselves and spoke about the ongoing conflict in Ukraine just over two years since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of its neighbour.

A Palestinian boy sits on the site of an Israeli strike, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, March 27, 2024.

Image source, Reuters

“In calling for respect for the principles of international law, I express my hope for a general exchange of all prisoners between Russia and Ukraine,” the Pope said.

Easter Sunday marks a major part of the Catholic calendar and is followed by 1.3 billion people around the globe.

On Sunday, Pope Francis was helped into a wheelchair as he greeted cardinals celebrating Easter Mass.

He then travelled around St Peter’s Square in the popemobile waving to large crowds.

Two days ago, Pope Francis presided over the Good Friday service in Saint Peter’s Basilica – but he skipped the traditional Way of the Cross ceremony and procession at Rome’s Colosseum to protect his health, the Vatican said.

A statement from the Vatican said the Pope had decided to rest as a precautionary measure.

Pope waves from the back of the popemobile in the Vatican

Image source, Reuters

But, on Saturday, he took part in a two-hour Easter vigil during which he read a lengthy homily.

In the last year Pope Francis has had a number of health issues. In March 2023 he was admitted to hospital with bronchitis – months later he underwent abdominal surgery on a hernia.

The Vatican said in November the Pope cancelled a planned trip to the COP28 climate summit in Dubai due to influenza and lung inflammation.

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