Israel-Hamas conflict: Pope Francis urges Gaza ceasefire in Easter sermon

The pontiff led Mass in a crowded and flower-adorned St. Peter's Square, followed by the delivery of his "Urbi et Orbi."

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Pope Francis made a heartfelt plea for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and urged for the release of all Israeli hostages during his Easter Sunday address. The pontiff's message, delivered on the most significant day in the Christian calendar, emphasized the devastation caused by conflicts and wars.

Leading Mass in a bustling St. Peter's Square adorned with flowers, Pope Francis proceeded to deliver his "Urbi et Orbi" blessing and message from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica. Despite recent health challenges that had limited his public engagements, the 87-year-old pope appeared in relatively good spirits on Easter Sunday, marking a significant occasion in Christian faith that commemorates the resurrection of Jesus.

Following the service, Pope Francis greeted the crowds in St. Peter's Square and along the avenue leading to the River Tiber from his open-topped popemobile. The Vatican estimated that approximately 60,000 people gathered to witness the Easter celebrations.

During his address, Pope Francis expressed deep concern over the suffering in war-torn Gaza, urging for humanitarian aid access and the immediate release of hostages taken last October. He reiterated his call for a ceasefire, highlighting the anguish witnessed in the eyes of children amidst the violence.

Addressing broader global issues, Pope Francis mentioned various conflict zones and crises, including Ukraine, Syria, Lebanon, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Haiti, Myanmar, Sudan, the Sahel and Horn of Africa regions, Congo, and Mozambique. He specifically called for a general exchange of prisoners between Russia and Ukraine, building on previous efforts to mediate the repatriation of Ukrainian children.

Furthermore, the pope condemned human trafficking and offered prayers for those affected by violence, hunger, and the impacts of climate change. He also expressed solidarity and consolation for victims of terrorism worldwide, underscoring the need for a path of hope amidst challenging circumstances.