By Devin Watkins
“Christ is alive and he remains with us.”
With those words of hope, Pope Francis addressed the crowds gathered in St. Peter’s Square on Easter Sunday for the Urbi et Orbi (“to the City and to the World”) message and blessing.
He said the morning of Easter represents “the perennial youth of the Church and of humanity as a whole”.
Youthful hope in face of sorrow
The Holy Father began his address by citing his recent post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Christus vivit. “Christ is alive! He is our hope, and in a wonderful way he brings youth to our world. Everything he touches becomes young, new, full of life.”
Easter, said Pope Francis, is the “beginning of a 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.”
Jesus, he added, does not abandon those who face hardship and sorrow, and he named the many parts of the world that are witnessing various forms of conflict.
Conflicts in the Middle East
Pope Francis said Easter keeps our eyes focused on the Middle East, praying that Christians “patiently persevere in their witness to the Risen Lord”.
He said the world risks forgetting the people of Syria, who he said are victims of an ongoing conflict.
“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.”
The Pope also prayed that the light of Easter illuminate all government leaders and peoples in the region, “beginning with the Israelis and Palestinians,” and lead them to pursue a future of peace and stability.
Pope Francis then turned to the African continent, first calling for the end to bloodshed in Libya, “where defenseless people are once more dying in recent weeks and many families have been forced to abandon their homes”. He urged those involved to choose dialogue over force.
The Pope said parts of the continent 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 and Cameroon.
Sudan, he said, is experiencing “a moment of political uncertainty”, voicing his hope that all parties will be heard.
Pope Francis prayed that God sustain the efforts towards peace in South Sudan, following a recent spiritual retreat in the Vatican. “May a new page open in the history of that country, in which all political, social and religious components actively commit themselves to the pursuit of the common good and the reconciliation of the nation.”
The Holy Father spoke briefly about the continuing conflict in eastern Ukraine. He prayed that the Lord “encourage initiatives of humanitarian aid” and efforts towards a lasting peace.
Turning his thoughts to the Americas, Pope Francis prayed that the joy of the resurrection fill the hearts of those experiencing difficult political and economic situations.
“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.”
The Pope also prayed for a “peaceful negotiated solution” to the political crisis in Nicaragua.
End the roar of arms
Finally, Pope Francis asked the Lord to make us “builders of bridges, not walls” and to end “the roar of arms,” both in conflict zones and within cities.
“May the Risen Christ,” he prayed, “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.”
“Christ is alive,” the Pope added. “May we let ourselves be renewed in him. Happy Easter!”