Pope Francis calls for Gaza ceasefire, release of all Israeli hostages in address on Easter Sunday

Pope Francis calls for Gaza ceasefire, release of all Israeli hostages in address on Easter Sunday

Pope Francis renewed his calls for the release of all Israeli hostages and a ceasefire in Gaza on Easter Sunday.

Pope Francis also called for “a general exchange of all prisoners between Russia and Ukraine” during his “Urbi et Orbi” (to the city and the world) address.

After Sunday’s Easter service he took to his open-topped popemobile to tour St. Peter’s Square.


ope Francis has made renewed calls for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and the release of all Israeli hostages in a peace-focused address on Easter Sunday.

Francis presided over Mass in a packed St Peter’s Square, and then delivered his “Urbi et Orbi” (to the city and the world) blessing and message from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica.

He has repeatedly deplored the death and destruction in the Israel-Gaza war.

“I appeal once again that access to humanitarian aid be ensured to Gaza, and call once more for the prompt release of the hostages seized on last October 7 and for an immediate ceasefire in the Strip,” he said on Sunday.

“How much suffering we see in the eyes of children, the children have forgotten to smile in those war zones.

“With their eyes, children ask us: Why? Why all this death? Why all this destruction? War is always an absurdity and a defeat.”

Easter Mass at St. Peter's Square on Sunday, 31 March 2024
Easter Mass at St. Peter’s Square on Sunday, 31 March 2024

The pope’s Easter message traditionally focuses on world affairs, and he mentioned other flashpoints, including Ukraine, Syria, Lebanon, Armenia and Azerbaijan, Haiti, Myanmar, Sudan, the Sahel and Horn of Africa regions, Congo and Mozambique.

After asking Italian Cardinal Matteo Zuppi last year to mediate the repatriation of Ukrainian children from Russia and Russian-occupied territories, Francis called for “a general exchange of all prisoners between Russia and Ukraine”.

He also condemned human trafficking and prayed for “a path of hope” for those suffering from violence, hunger and the effects of climate change, as well as consolation for “the victims of terrorism in all its forms”.

Francis, 87, has been in poor health in recent weeks, forcing him on repeated occasions to limit his public speaking and cancel engagements as he did on Good Friday, skipping at short notice a procession at Rome’s Colosseum.

However, he took part normally in other Holy Week events leading up to Easter, and appeared in relatively good spirits at Sunday’s Mass.

Easter Mass at St. Peter's Square on Sunday, 31 March 2024
Pope Francis arriving at the Easter Mass at St. Peter’s Square on Sunday, 31 March 2024

Easter celebrates the day in which the faithful believe Jesus rose from the dead.

After the service, the pontiff took to his open-topped popemobile to tour the square and the avenue connecting the Vatican to the River Tiber.

The Vatican said about 60,000 people had turned up.

 

Urbi et Orbi blessing
Pope Francis waving to the people in St Peter’s Square After giving the Urbi et Orbi (blessing to the people in the square and to all the world)

 


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