Pope Francis reminded Christians this Easter of the strength which comes from Christ’s death and resurrection, calling them to be witnesses of peace and justice, especially for those suffering today in regions of extreme violence and persecution.
“From the risen Lord we ask the grace not to succumb to the pride which fuels violence and war, but to have the humble courage of pardon and peace,” the pontiff said to tens of thousands of cold, rain-soaked pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square for Easter Sunday Mass.
Delivering the traditional Urbi et Orbi address from the central balcony of the basilica after the Mass, the Pope asked Jesus, as “the Victor over death, to lighten the sufferings of our many brothers and sisters who are persecuted for his name, and of all those who suffer injustice as a result of ongoing conflicts and violence.”
Pope Francis listed by name some of the current conflict zones around the world, especially the Middle East, Africa, and Ukraine, and called for peace in those regions of ongoing violence.
He made particular mention of Kenya, which is still reeling from the massacre of 148 young people at Garissa University College on Thursday.
The pontiff also appealed for “peace and freedom” for victims of slavery, drug dealers, and “peace for this world subjected to arms dealers.”
Looking down from the loggia of St. Peter’s Basilica on the scores of pilgrims with their umbrellas, braving the inclement weather, the Pope appealed for all those suffering: “the marginalized, the imprisoned, the poor and the migrants who are so often rejected, maltreated and discarded, the sick and the suffering, children, especially those who are victims of violence.”
He called on them to listen to Jesus’ consoling words: “Fear not, for I am risen and I shall always be with you.”
By the death and resurrection celebrated on Easter Sunday, Pope Francis said, “Jesus shows everyone the way to life and happiness: this way is humility, which involves humiliation. This is the path which leads to glory.”
“Christians, by the grace of Christ, dead and risen, are the seeds of another humanity, in which we seek to live in service to one another, not to be arrogant, but rather respectful and ready to help.”
This grace is a strength, not a weakness, the Pope said. Rather, “those who bear within them God’s power, his love and his justice, do not need to employ violence; they speak and act with the power of truth, beauty and love.”
Below is the full text of Pope Francis’ Easter message:
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Jesus Christ is risen!
Love has triumphed over hatred, life has conquered death, light has dispelled the darkness!
Out of love for us, Jesus Christ stripped himself of his divine glory, emptied himself, took on the form of a slave and humbled himself even to death, death on a cross. For this reason God exalted him and made him Lord of the universe. Jesus is Lord!
By his death and resurrection, Jesus shows everyone the way to life and happiness: this way is humility, which involves humiliation. This is the path which leads to glory. Only those who humble themselves can go towards the “things that are above”, towards God (cf. Col 3:1-4). The proud look “down from above”; the humble look “up from below”.
On Easter morning, alerted by the women, Peter and John ran to the tomb. They found it open and empty. Then they drew near and “bent down” in order to enter it. To enter into the mystery, we need to “bend down”, to abase ourselves. Only those who abase themselves understand the glorification of Jesus and are able to follow him on his way.
The world proposes that we put ourselves forward at all costs, that we compete, that we prevail... But Christians, by the grace of Christ, dead and risen, are the seeds of another humanity, in which we seek to live in service to one another, not to be arrogant, but rather respectful and ready to help.
This is not weakness, but true strength! Those who bear within them God’s power, his love and his justice, do not need to employ violence; they speak and act with the power of truth, beauty and love.
Today, from the risen Lord we ask the grace not to succumb to the pride which fuels violence and war, but to have the humble courage of pardon and peace. We ask Jesus, the Victor over death, to lighten the sufferings of our many brothers and sisters who are persecuted for his name, and of all those who suffer injustice as a result of ongoing conflicts and violence.
We ask for peace, above all, for Syria and Iraq, that the roar of arms may cease and that peaceful relations may be restored among the various groups which make up those beloved countries. May the international community not stand by before the immense humanitarian tragedy unfolding in these countries and the drama of the numerous refugees.
We pray for peace for all the peoples of the Holy Land. May the culture of encounter grow between Israelis and Palestinians and the peace process be resumed, in order to end years of suffering and division.
We implore peace for Libya, that the present absurd bloodshed and all barbarous acts of violence may cease, and that all concerned for the future of the country may work to favour reconciliation and to build a fraternal society respectful of the dignity of the person. For Yemen too we express our hope for the growth of a common desire for peace, for the good of the entire people.
At the same time, in hope we entrust to the merciful Lord the framework recently agreed to in Lausanne, that it may be a definitive step toward a more secure and fraternal world.
We ask the risen Lord for the gift of peace for Nigeria, South Sudan and for the various areas of Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. May constant prayer rise up from all people of goodwill for those who lost their lives – I think in particular of the young people who were killed last Thursday at Garissa University College in Kenya – for all who have been kidnapped, and for those forced to abandon their homes and their dear ones.
May the Lord’s resurrection bring light to beloved Ukraine, especially to those who have endured the violence of the conflict of recent months. May the country rediscover peace and hope thanks to the commitment of all interested parties.
We ask for peace and freedom for the many men and women subject to old and new forms of enslavement on the part of criminal individuals and groups. Peace and liberty for the victims of drug dealers, who are often allied with the powers who ought to defend peace and harmony in the human family. And we ask peace for this world subjected to arms dealers.
May the marginalized, the imprisoned, the poor and the migrants who are so often rejected, maltreated and discarded, the sick and the suffering, children, especially those who are victims of violence; all who today are in mourning, and all men and women of goodwill, hear the consoling voice of the Lord Jesus: “Peace to you!” (Lk 24:36). “Fear not, for I am risen and I shall always be with you” (cf. Roman Missal, Entrance Antiphon for Easter Day).
Pope Francis’ words after leading the faithful in the Urbi et Orbi prayer:
Dear brothers and sisters,
I wish to extend my best wishes for a Happy Easter to all have come to this Square from different countries, and for taking part through various means of social communication.
Bring to your homes and to those you meet the joyful announcement that the Lord of Life is risen, bearing love, justice, respect, and forgiveness.
Thank you for your presence, for your prayer, and for the enthusiasm of your faith, on a day that is very beautiful – and very ugly, on account of the rain.
A special thought and appreciation for the gift of flowers, which this year come from the Netherlands.
I wish you all a Happy Easter. Pray for me! Have a good lunch! Arrivederci!