Tens of thousands of people were gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the Pope’s Easter Mass. Under a scorching sun, they listened to Pope Francis deliver the traditional noon Easter message from the main balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica.
“Easter is a feast of hope, a celebration of God’s mercy and a call to pray for and assist all who suffer,” Pope Francis said in his first Easter message “urbi et orbi” (“to the city and the world”).
The risen Jesus “makes us sharers of his immortal life and enables us to see with his eyes of love and compassion those who hunger and thirst, strangers and prisoners, the marginalized and the outcast, the victims of oppression and violence,” the Pope after celebrating Easter morning Mass.
As tradition, Pope Francis did not give a homily during the Easter morning Mass, Instead, bowed his head in a silent reflection in solidarity with thousands of pilgrims at St. Peter’s Basilica.
After Mass, he gave a traditional speech where he spoke about the significance of the resurrection and urged Christians towards reconciliation with one another and with God. He also spoke about the recent attacks in Turkey, Nigeria, Belgium, Chad, Cameroon, Ivory Coast and Iraq.
He called the message of Easter “a message of life filled with hope for all humanity.”
Easter, he said, “invites us not to forget those men and women seeking a better future, an ever more numerous throng of migrants and refugees including many children fleeing from war, hunger, poverty and social injustice.”
He offered special prayers for persecuted Christians, asking that “Jesus, the victor over death”, would ease their suffering. He prayed that the power and hope of the Resurrection would “overcome hardened hearts and promote a fruitful encounter of peoples and cultures.” He also prayed that the Lord would touch places in the globe scarred by war, terrorism, poverty and environmental destruction.
“The risen Christ points out paths of hope to beloved Syria, a country torn by a lengthy conflict, with its sad wake of destruction, death, contempt for humanitarian law and the breakdown of civil concord,” the Pope said. “To the power of the risen Lord we entrust the talks now in course.”
While problems will always remain, he said, Christ’s Resurrection is a sure foundation of Christian hope and not “mere optimism, nor a psychological attitude or desire to be courageous”.
On Good Friday, at the end of the Way of the Cross, he had commended the plight of refugees and migrants to God. He prayed for Christians facing persecution in the Middle East and other parts of the globe.
“O Cross of Christ,” he said, “today too we see you raised up in our sisters and brothers killed, burned alive, throats slit and decapitated by barbarous blades amid cowardly silence.
“O Cross of Christ, today too we see you in the faces of children, of women and people, worn out and fearful, who flee from war and violence and who often only find death and many Pilates who wash their hands.”
During the Easter Vigil Mass, Pope Francis baptized, confirmed and gave first Communion to 12 people, including Yong-joon Lee, the South Korean ambassador to Italy, whose baptismal name is Stephen. The ambassador’s wife, taking the name Stella, was also baptized.