For Easter, pope balances joy with Middle East strife

More than 100,000 people showed up in St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City to take part in the Easter Mass held by Pope Benedict XVI.

Pope Benedict, in his Easter message to the world yesterday, lamented that the day’s joy was marred by war in Libya and urged Europe to welcome desperate migrants fleeing strife in north Africa.

The 84-year-old pope, marking his sixth Easter as Roman Catholic leader, presided at mass for more than 100,000 people in a St. Peter’s Square bedecked with 42,000 bright flowers and plants donated by Holland to symbolize hope and love.

But Benedict, who delivered Easter greetings in 65 languages, wove his sermon around the contrast between the joy of the Easter season and the wars, poverty and suffering around the world.

“Here, in this world of ours, the Easter alleluia still contrasts with the cries and laments that arise from so many painful situations: deprivation, hunger, disease, war, violence,” he said in his twice-annual “Urbi et Orbi” (to the city and the world) message.

Speaking of Libya, where civil strife has left many dead in the past three months, the pope called for diplomacy and dialogue to take the place of weapons and urged that humanitarian aid be allowed to get to those who need it most.

He called for respect for human rights in the Middle East and north Africa and appealed to Europe to welcome those fleeing conflicts from those areas.


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