April 22 (UPI) — Pope Francis described Easter as the “beginning of the new world” amid suffering for people around the world during his traditional Urbi et Orbi blessing from his balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City.
The pope, who didn’t give a homily at Mass this year, spoke to thousands gathered in St. Peter’s Square. The Urbi et Orbi, which means “To the City [of Rome] and to the World” is given on Easter Sunday, Christmas and other special occasions. Easter is celebrated by Christians, including 1.2 billion Roman Catholics, to mark the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.
“Christ is alive and he remains with us,” he told the onlookers. “Risen, he shows us the light of his face, and he does not abandon all those experiencing hardship, pain and sorrow.
“Yet Easter is also the beginning of the new world, set free from the slavery of sin and death: the world open at last to the Kingdom of God, a Kingdom of love, peace and fraternity.”
Francis described Christ’s resurrection as “the principle of new life for every man and every woman,” adding “true renewal always begins from the heart, from the conscience.”
The pope noted conflict, tension and violence worldwide, saying Jesus does not abandon those who face hardship and sorrow.
“May the Risen Christ open our hearts to the needs of the disadvantaged, the vulnerable, the poor, the unemployed, the marginalized, and all those who knock at our door in search of bread, refuge, and the recognition of their dignity.”
He concluded his talk: “Christ is alive. May we let ourselves be renewed in him. Happy Easter!”
Earlier, he recounted trouble spots around the world.
He told the crowd to remember the victims of the ongoing conflict in Syria.
“Now is instead the time for a renewed commitment for a political solution able to respond to people’s legitimate hopes for freedom, peace and justice, confront the humanitarian crisis and favor the secure re-entry of the homeless, along with all those who have taken refuge in neighboring countries, especially Lebanon and Jordan,” he said.
He prayed that the light of Easter illuminate all government leaders and peoples in the Middle East, “beginning with the Israelis and Palestinians,” and lead them to pursue a future of peace and stability.
In Libya, the pope urged for the end to bloodshed “where defenseless people are once more dying in recent weeks and many families have been forced to abandon their homes.”
He noted parts of Africa are “rife with social tensions, conflicts and at times violent forms of extremism that leave in their wake insecurity, destruction and death.” He specifically mentioned Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Cameroon and Sudan.
In eastern Ukraine, he prayed that the Lord “encourage initiatives of humanitarian aid” in a quest for lasting peace.
In the Americas, he offered hope for resolutions to political conflicts in Venezuela and Nicaragua.
“I think in particular of the Venezuelan people, of all those who lack the minimal conditions for leading a dignified and secure life due to a crisis that endures and worsens. May the Lord grant that all those with political responsibilities may work to end social injustices, abuses and acts of violence, and take the concrete steps needed to heal divisions and offer the population the help they need.”
Worldwide, he asked God to allow people to become “builders of bridges, not walls” and to end “the roar of arms.”
Near the conclusion of Urbi et Orbi, Pope Francis mentioned the bombings that morning in Sri Lanka, including three churches, saying, “I wish to show my affectionate closeness to the Christian community, hit while gathered in prayer, and to all the victims of such cruel violence.”