Francis prayed that God would “enlighten and inspire the initiatives that promote peace in Ukraine, so that all those involved, with the support of the international community, will make every effort to prevent violence.”
Francis makes a pilgrimage to Jordan, the Palestinian territories and Israel next month, so on Easter he prayed that hopes sparked by the resumption of Mideast peace negotiations will be sustained.
Thousands of pilgrims from around the world flocked to celebrate Easter in the Holy Land, where Christian communities have been declining as the faithful flee regional turmoil.
Francis also spoke of those suffering in Africa from an epidemic of deadly Ebola and urged a halt to “brutal terrorist attacks” in parts of Nigeria.
Nigerians marked Easter with heightened security against a spreading Islamic uprising, mourning the deaths of 75 bomb blast victims and fearful of the fate of 85 abducted schoolgirls.
In Venezuela, there have been hopes Vatican mediation can help end the country’s violent political unrest, and Francis urged that “hearts be turned to reconciliation and fraternal concord” there.
But Francis’ Easter message also urged people to pay attention to the needy close to home. He said the “good news” of Easter’s joy means “leaving ourselves behind and encountering others, being close to those crushed by life’s troubles, sharing with the needy, standing at the side of the sick, elderly and the outcast.”
He denounced the “scourge of hunger,” which he said was “aggravated by conflicts and by the immense wastefulness for which we are often responsible.”
Cheering and applauding, the crowd tried to catch a glimpse of the pontiff as he circled around in his white popemobile before going to the basilica’s balcony to deliver his commentary.