Pope Francis delivers 1st Easter Sunday message

March 31, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
Pope Francis made a plea for peace in his first Easter Sunday message, decrying the conflicts in the Middle East and the Korean peninsula.

The pope celebrated mass before more than 250,000 people in St. Peter's Square, which was decked out with flowers. Francis shared in his flock's exuberance as they celebrated Christianity's core belief that Jesus Christ rose from the dead following crucifixion.

Francis delivered his message from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica, the same vantage point above the square where he was introduced to the world as the first Latin American pope on March 13.

The Roman Catholic leader aimed his Easter greetings at "every house and every family, especially where the suffering is greatest, in hospitals, in prisons." Francis prayed that Jesus would inspire people to "change hatred into love, vengeance into forgiveness, war into peace."

He urged Israelis and Palestinians to resume peace talks and end a conflict that "has lasted all too long." And, in reflecting on the two-year-old Syrian crisis, Francis asked, "How much suffering must there still be before a political solution" can be found?

The pope also expressed desire for a "spirit of reconciliation" on the Korean peninsula, where North Korea says it has entered "a state of war" with South Korea.

The first pontiff to come from the Jesuits, an order with special concern for the poor, and the first pope to name himself after St. Francis, a medieval figure who renounced wealth to preach to the down-and-out, Francis lamented that the world is "still divided by greed looking for easy gain."

After Mass, Francis boarded an open-topped pope-mobile and took a spin through the joyous crowd, kissing babies and patting children on the head.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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