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Pope Francis urges peace, unity in first Easter Sunday address

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
March 31st, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Scarcely a month after he was chosen to succeed Pope Benedict, Pope Francis led his first Easter Sunday since in an open-air Mass in front of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican. The former Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina offered a message of world peace, calling for an end to violence across the world and an easing of tensions in the Korean peninsula.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The pope urged leaders to find diplomatic solutions to the issues in Syria and North Korea.

At his first "Urbi et Orbi" message from the balcony of St Peter's Basilica, he also asked for reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians, as well as amicable solutions to conflicts in several African nations.

All the more remarkable was the fact that the pope offered his address from the very same balcony where he was elected as the first pope from the Americas in more than 1,300 years.

"Peace to the whole world, torn apart by violence linked to drug trafficking and by the iniquitous exploitation of natural resources! Peace to this our Earth! May the risen Jesus bring comfort to the victims of natural disasters and make us responsible guardians of creation," Pope Francis exhorted to the faithful.

"Peace in Iraq, that every act of violence may end, and above all for dear Syria, for its people torn by conflict and for the many refugees who await help and comfort.  How much blood has been shed!  And how much suffering must there still be before a political solution to the crisis will be found?"

Prior to addressing the crowds, the pontiff strode onto a flower-bedecked esplanade facing St Peter's Square, into which tens of thousands of the faithful had gathered from early Sunday.

Bowing his head in reflection as the Gospel was sung in Latin, Francis recounted what Christians believe is the central mystery of their faith - the resurrection of Jesus after this death by crucifixion.

"Let the risen Jesus enter your life," the pope told worshippers before the service via his Twitter account. "He will receive you with open arms."

Renowned for his humble, simple style, Pope Francis has earned the moniker of "the unpredictable pope."

Pope Francis courted controversy earlier this week when he washed and kissed the feet of two young women at a juvenile detention center, a very surprising departure from church rules that restrict the Holy Thursday ritual to men.

No pope has ever washed the feet of a woman before, and Francis' gesture sparked a debate among some conservatives and liturgical purists, who lamented he had set a "questionable example." Liberals welcomed the move as a sign of greater inclusiveness in the church.

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