Pope's Easter wish for peace in troubled world

Celebrating the first Easter of his pontificate, Benedict XVI prayed for peace in the world's troubled regions and urged world leaders to use diplomacy to defuse tension in the Middle East.

Catholic News Service reports that following the Easter mass at St Peter's Square the pope offered his blessing "urbi et orbi" (to the city of Rome and the world), and prayed for peace and justice in the most troubled areas of the world.

During his midday Easter blessing, the pope called for "serious and honest negotiations" to find an "honourable solution" to the standoff between Iran and the international community over Iran's nuclear program. He also prayed that "in Iraq may peace finally prevail over the tragic violence that continues mercilessly to claim victims."

The pope called on the international community to come to the rescue of the people of Sudan's Darfur region who continue to be under the threat of genocide and face terror and hunger.

He prayed for peace in the Holy Land and for "patient and persevering dialogue" between Israel and the Palestinian government.

"May the international community, which reaffirms Israel's right to exist in peace, assist the Palestinian people to overcome the precarious conditions in which they live," he said.

With more than 80,000 people gathered in St Peter's Square for the blessing, Benedict XVI said Christ's resurrection from the dead fulfilled God's promise to save his creatures from the power of sin and death.

"From the risen Christ, all those who are still oppressed by chains of suffering and death look for hope, sometimes even without knowing it," he said.

"May the risen Christ grant that the strength of his life, peace and freedom be experienced everywhere," he said, after offering Easter greetings in 62 languages, including Esperanto, Maori, Arabic and Hebrew.

He told English speakers, "May the grace and joy of the risen Christ be with you all."

During the Easter Vigil on the weekend, Pope Benedict baptised and confirmed seven men and women from six nations, using a small golden shell to trickle the holy water over each catechumen's head.

Baptism represents more than just receiving people into the faith or the simple washing away of sin, the pope said in the vigil homily. Baptism ushers in a complete transformation in one's life, making it "no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me," the pope said, quoting St Paul.

At the end of the Way of the Cross service the night before at Rome's Colosseum, Pope Benedict called on Christians to be bold and courageous in their faith and help rein in the evil plaguing the world by reaching out to others with love.

Speaking without a text to those gathered at the site where numerous Christians had been killed in ancient Roman times, the pope urged people to be merciful and not sit back and watch injustice and suffering take place.

"We cannot be just spectators in the Way of the Cross," which is not just an event from the past, but is an ever-repeating reality, he said.

The Way of the Cross reflects "all of humanity's sufferings today," including the suffering of abandoned or abused children, threats against the family, the division of the world between rich and poor, and the misery of those suffering from poverty and deprivation, he said.

Earlier, Pope Benedict presided over the Good Friday liturgy of the Lord's Passion, beginning the rite by lying prostrate with his face on a pillow in front of the altar.

The preacher of the papal household, Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa, said in his homily that people needed to be more compassionate and forgiving if the world was "not to slide ever more into the abyss of globalised violence."

Apparently referring to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian territories, the Capuchin priest said he wondered what would happen if, "in the Near East, the two peoples at war for decades, rather than blaming one another were to begin to think of the suffering of others, to be moved to pity for one another," making the "wall of division" between the two no longer necessary.

There is so much pain and suffering in the world, "we must have some compassion and solidarity for one another," he said.

The pope left the Vatican Easter afternoon to spend a few days resting at the papal villa in Castel Gandolfo, south of Rome.

Pope celebrates Easter, urges people, nations to turn away from sin (Catholic News Service 17/4/06)

Homily of His Holiness Benedict XVI: Easter Vigil (15/4/06)
Urbi et Orbi Message of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, Easter 2006
Easter: Certainty that evil does not have the last word (Vatican Information Service 12/4/06 - temporary url)
One year on, Pope Benedict confounds critics (Reuters 17/4/06)
Pope calls for nuclear diplomacy in Easter message (Reuters 17/4/06)
Washing of the feet embodies the love of Jesus that purifies man (AsiaNews.it 13/4/06)
Before the Way of the Cross we cannot be mere spectators, says the Pope (AsiaNews.it 14/4/06)
Pope: Resurrection, "explosion of love", concerns each one of us (AsiaNews.it 15/4/06)
Pope: May the world welcome the peace of the Risen One (AsiaNews.it 16/4/06)
Mary guides us to the joy of Jesus' resurrection, says the Pope (AsiaNews.it 16/4/06)
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On first Easter Mass, Pope Benedict calls for peace in Iraq, Holy Land, resolution of nuclear crises (Catholic News Agency 17/4/06)
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Benedict XVI gives 'Urbi et Orbi' blessing, calling humanity not to have fear (Catholic News Agency 17/4/06)
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Pope offers hard-hitting Way of the Cross meditations (Catholic World News 14/4/06)
Pope's Easter message calls for talks on Iran (Catholic World News 17/4/06)
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Pope points toward 500th anniversary of St. Peter's (Catholic World News 17/4/06)
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John L Allen: The pope's `patriarch' puzzle (Los Angeles Times 9/4/06)
Pope of Surprises? (Newsweek 13/4/06)
Pope weighs invitation to visit the Holy Land (The Tablet 15/4/06)
Charles Curran: From division to unity (The Tablet 15/4/06)
Pope Warns of Threats to Families (Zenit 14/4/06)
65 Countries to See Papal Easter Blessing (Zenit 14/4/06)
Pope Warns of Threats to Families (Zenit 14/4/06)
Way of Cross Includes Consolations, Says Benedict XVI (Zenit 15/4/06)
Benedict XVI's Address at Way of the Cross (Zenit 15/4/06)
Papal Homily at Mass of the Lord's Supper (Zenit 15/4/06)
Benedict XVI Makes Easter Appeal for Peace (Zenit 16/4/06)
Resurrection Yields a New World, Says Pope (Zenit 16/4/06)
Benedict XVI Gets Birthday Greetings (Zenit 16/4/06)
Assessing Benedict XVI's First Year (Zenit 16/4/06)
Benedict XVI's Easter Message (Zenit 16/4/06)
Pope's Easter Vigil Homily (Zenit 16/4/06)

18 Apr 2006