Pope Francis addresses crowd of 45,000 on Easter Sunday

Pope Francis celebrated Easter with some 45,000 attendees in St Peter's Square in Vatican City, delivering his twice-yearly Urbi et Orbi. In his Easter message, he addressed the war in Ukraine for the second year in a row, asking for support for "the beloved Ukrainian people" and to "shed the light of Easter upon the people of Russia".

The Pope also expressed his "deep worry" at the violence in the Middle East, where tensions flared up last week. He said the attacks of recent days "threaten the hoped-for climate of trust and reciprocal respect needed to resume dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians". He also paused to remember the victims of the earthquakes in Turkey and Syria in February.

Before speaking from the balcony, the Pope attended Mass in a sun-drenched St Peter's Square. Although the 86-year-old leader of the Catholic Church officially presided over the traditional Easter Mass, it was celebrated by Giovanni Battista Re, dean of the College of Cardinals. After Mass, Francis left St Peter's Square, decorated with some 35,000 flowers and plants, in the popemobile to loud cheers from the crowd.

There had been concerns about the Pope's health in the run-up to Easter, as he spent several days in hospital with bronchitis at the end of March, but he was discharged last week just before Palm Sunday Mass. However, h did miss the traditional Way of the Cross procession in Rome on Good Friday for the first time.



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