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Pope Francis greeted the crowd after delivering his Easter message and blessing “urbi et orbi” (to the city and the world) from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican March 31.
Pope Francis greeted the crowd after delivering his Easter message and blessing “urbi et orbi” (to the city and the world) from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican March 31.
Photo Credit: Vatican Media

On Easter, pope asks Christ to ‘roll away’ the stones of war worldwide

VATICAN CITY — Just as Jesus removed the stone that sealed His tomb on the morning of the resurrection, on Easter Christ alone “has the power to roll away the stones that block the path to life” and which trap humanity in war and injustice, Pope Francis said.

Through His resurrection, Jesus opens “those doors that continually we shut with the wars spreading throughout the world,” he said after celebrating Easter Mass in St. Peter’s Square March 31. “Only the risen Christ, by granting us the forgiveness of our sins, opens the way for a renewed world.”

Seated on the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica, the pope asked the risen Christ to bring peace in Israel, Palestine and Ukraine and a host of other conflict-ridden regions in the world.

“In calling for respect for the principles of international law, I express my hope for a general exchange of all prisoners between Russia and Ukraine,” he said. “All for the sake of all!”

Pope Francis then appealed to the international community to ensure access of humanitarian aid to Gaza and called for the “prompt release” of hostages taken during Hamas’ attack on Israel Oct. 7 as well as “an immediate cease-fire in the strip.”

“War is always an absurdity, war is always a defeat,” he said, asking that the “strengthening winds of war” do not reach Europe and the Mediterranean. “Let us not yield to the logic of weapons and rearming. Peace is never made with arms, but with outstretched hands and open hearts.”

Easter Mass in the flower-laden square began with the singing of the “alleluia,” traditionally absent from liturgical celebrations during Lent, as part of the rite of “Resurrexit” in which an icon of Jesus is presented to the pope to recall St. Peter’s witness to Christ’s resurrection.

As is traditional, the pope did not give a homily during the morning Mass but bowed his head and observed several minutes of silent reflection after the chanting of the Gospel in both Latin and Greek.

The Vatican said some 30,000 people attended the pope’s morning Mass and, by noon, there were approximately 60,000 people inside and around St. Peter’s Square for his Easter message and blessing “urbi et orbi” (to the city and the world).

U.S. Cardinal James M. Harvey, archpriest of Rome’s Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, stood alongside Pope Francis for the blessing and announced a plenary indulgence available to those present and to everyone following through radio, television and other channels of communication.

Stopping only occasionally to clear his throat, Pope Francis read the entirety of his Easter message and prayed for peace in several conflict hotspots around the world, including Syria, Lebanon, Haiti, Myanmar, Sudan, Mozambique and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

He also prayed for the Rohingya — a persecuted, predominantly Muslim, ethnic group residing largely in Myanmar — who he said are “beset by a grave humanitarian crisis.”

The pope praised the Western Balkan region’s steps toward European integration, urging the region to embrace its ethnic, cultural and confessional differences, as well as the peace negotiations taking place between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

“May the risen Christ open a path of hope to all those who in other parts of the world are suffering from violence, conflict, food insecurity and the effects of climate change. May He grant consolation to the victims of terrorism in all its forms,” he prayed, asking visitors to “pray for all those who have lost their lives and implore the repentance and conversion of the perpetrators of those crimes.”

On Easter, which Pope Francis said celebrates the life given to humanity through the resurrection of God’s son, he lamented “how much the precious gift of life is despised” today.

“How many children cannot even be born?” he asked. “How many die of hunger and are deprived of essential care or are victims of abuse and violence? How many lives are made objects of trafficking for the increasing commerce in human beings?”

“On the day when Christ has set us free from the slavery of death, I appeal to all who have political responsibilities to spare no efforts in combatting the scourge of human trafficking, by working tirelessly to dismantle the networks of exploitation and to bring freedom to those who are their victims,” he said.

Pope Francis also asked that the light of the risen Christ “shine upon migrants and on all those who are passing through a period of economic difficulty” as a source of consolation and hope.

The previous night, at the Easter Vigil celebrated at St. Peter’s Basilica, the pope said Easter is a promise that no matter how dark the world may seem and no matter how heavy the burdens one carries, victory belongs to the risen Christ and all who believe in Him.

“Let us lift our eyes to Him and ask that the power of His resurrection may roll away the heavy stones that weigh down our souls,” the pope said in his homily at the Easter Vigil March 30.

“Let us lift our eyes to Him, the risen Lord, and press forward in the certainty that, against the obscure backdrop of our failed hopes and our deaths, the eternal life that He came to bring is even now present in our midst,” he said.

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