At Easter, pope hails Iran deal, urges end to ‘ab­surd vi­o­lence’

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Pope Fran­cis called Sun­day for an end to “ab­surd vi­o­lence” in hotspots around the world while prais­ing the break­through reached last week on curb­ing Iran’s nu­clear am­bi­tions.

In his tra­di­tional Easter mes­sage, the 78- year- old pon­tiff prayed that the frame­work ac­cord reached Thurs­day be­tween Iran and six ma­jor world pow­ers would be “a de­fin­i­tive step to­ward a more se­cure and fra­ter­nal world.”

Tens of thou­sands of pil­grims hud­dled un­der um­brel­las in a rain­soaked St. Peter’s Square to hear the pope de­liver his “Urbi et Orbi” (To the City and World) bless­ing, broad­cast live to dozens of coun­tries.

Speak­ing from the bal­cony of St. Peter’s Basil­ica, Fran­cis urged prayers for those killed in armed con­flict, say­ing: “I think in par­tic­u­lar of the young peo­ple who were killed last Thurs­day at Garissa Uni­ver­sity Col­lege in Kenya,” re­fer­ring to the attack by So­mali She­bab ex­trem­ists that left 148 peo­ple dead.

In his third Easter ad­dress since his elec­tion as pope in 2013, the head of the world’s 1.2 bil­lion Catholics prayed “for peace, above all, for Syria and Iraq, that the roar of arms may cease”.

He called on the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity to “not stand by be­fore the im­mense hu­man­i­tar­ian tragedy un­fold­ing in th­ese coun­tries and the drama of the nu­mer­ous refugees” cre­ated by the two con­flicts.

The Ar­gen­tine pope also pleaded for “ab­surd blood­shed and all bar­barous acts of vi­o­lence” in Libya to be halted, and voiced his “de­sire for peace, for the good of the en­tire peo­ple” in war-bat­tered

Ye­men and Ukraine.

Be ‘re­spect­ful, ready to help’

He prayed for “all who have been kid­napped, and for those forced to aban­don their homes and their dear ones” in armed con­flict and at­tacks by ex­trem­ists in Nige­ria and South Su­dan as well as parts of Su­dan and the Demo­cratic Repub­lic of the Congo.

In ad­di­tion, he urged “peace and free­dom for the many men and women sub­ject to old and new forms of en­slave­ment on the part of crim­i­nal in­di­vid­u­als and groups ... for the vic­tims of drug deal­ers ... And we ask peace for this world sub­jected to arms deal­ers.”

Fran­cis also sounded his trade­mark ap­peal to the rich and pow­er­ful to care for the world’s poor and down­trod­den, say­ing: “The world pro­poses that we put our- selves for­ward at all costs, that we com­pete.”

In­stead, Chris­tians should “seek to live in ser­vice to one an­other, not to be ar­ro­gant, but rather re­spect­ful and ready to help,” he said.

Sun­day’s Easter ob­ser­vances capped a long and de­mand­ing Holy Week that left Fran­cis at times ap­pear­ing tired.

On Fri­day he presided over the tra­di­tional Via Cru­cis (Way of the Cross) pro­ces­sion at Rome’s Colos­seum evok­ing the last hours of Je­sus’s life.

The day be­fore Fran­cis cel­e­brated two masses — one for priests, and the other at Rome’s Re­bib­bia pri­son, where he washed the feet of 10 in­mates sym­bol­i­cally evok­ing Christ’s hu­mil­ity — a theme he took up again on Sun­day.

“To en­ter into the mys­tery, we need to ‘bend down,’ to abase our-

selves,” Fran­cis said.

Chris­tians in Holy Land, across

World Cel­e­brate Easter

Chris­tians in the Holy Land and across the world are cel­e­brat­ing Easter, com­mem­o­rat­ing the day fol­low­ers be­lieve Je­sus was res­ur­rected in Jerusalem 2,000 years ago.

The cav­ernous Holy Sep­ul­cher church in Jerusalem was packed with wor­ship­pers on Sun­day. The site is where Chris­tians be­lieve Je­sus was cru­ci­fied, buried and res­ur­rected.

A Mass is ex­pected later in Beth­le­hem’s Na­tiv­ity Church, built atop the site where Chris­tians be­lieve Je­sus was born.

Catholics and oth­ers are cel­e­brat­ing Easter whereas Or­tho­dox Chris­tians, who fol­low a dif­fer­ent cal­en­dar, were mark­ing Palm Sun­day with pro­ces­sions.

2. An In­dian Chris­tian prays dur­ing Easter mass at a church in Gauhati, In­dia on Sun­day. Chris­tians around the world are cel­e­brat­ing Easter com­mem­o­rat­ing the day when ac­cord­ing to Chris­tian tra­di­tion Je­sus was res­ur­rected in Jerusalem two mil­len­nia ago. 3. A woman at­tends mass dur­ing Easter cel­e­bra­tions at a church in the vil­lage of Krevo, some 10 kilo­me­ters north­west of Minsk.

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