Special to USAfricaonline.com @USAfricaLive
(UPI) — Pope Francis marked Easter Sunday with an address praying for relief for the violence-beset populations of Syria, south Sudan, Iraq, and Ukraine.
The pope appeared before a crowd of tens of thousands gathered in the Vatican’s St. Peter’s Square about noon for the traditional Urbi et Orbi — “To the City and the World” — address delivered on Easter Sunday, when the world’s Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
“Today, throughout the world, the Church echoes once more the astonishing message of the first disciples: ‘Jesus is risen!’ — ‘He is truly risen, as he said!'” Pope Francis told the crowd.The pontiff said Jesus “takes upon himself all those victimized by old and new forms of slavery, inhuman labor, illegal trafficking, exploitation and discrimination, and grave forms of addiction. He takes upon himself children and adolescents deprived of their carefree innocence and exploited, and those deeply hurt by acts of violence that take place within the walls of their own home.”
The address featured prayers for relief for those affected by ” armed conflicts, terrorist attacks, famine and oppressive regimes,” with a specific mention made for “a war that continues to sow horror and death” in Syria, where at least 112 people were killed in a bombing targeting buses evacuating people from war-torn towns Saturday.
“Just yesterday, there was the latest vile attack on refugees attempting to flee, which provoked numerous deaths and injuries,” the pope said.
Francis also prayed for peace in the Holy Land, Iraq, and Yemen, as well as an end to violence and famine in South Sudan, Sudan, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
“May the Good Shepherd come to the aid of Ukraine, still beset by conflict and bloodshed, to regain social harmony. May he accompany every effort to alleviate the tragic sufferings of those affected by the conflict,” the pope said.
Pope Francis earlier broke with tradition and delivered an improvised homily on Easter morning, an occasion when Francis and previous popes have generally remained silent in advance of the Urbi et Orbi address.
Francis affirmed during the homily that the resurrection of Jesus Christ “is not a fantasy.”
“It’s not a celebration with many flowers. This is beautiful, but [the resurrection] is more,” he said.