Thousands attended Pope Francis’ Easter Sunday Mass in the Vatican today, where he held his traditional “Urbi et Orbi” blessing on the last day of Christian Easter celebrations.
In his speech, the pope expressed his concern about conflicts across the world. He talked about “communities undergoing their Easter celebrations under particular circumstances” like Nicaragua, where Easter celebrations have been banned for “security reasons.”
“Please remember those who are forbidden from professing their faith freely and publicly,” he said.
A month ago, Pope Francis broke his silence about human rights violations in Nicaragua, calling President Daniel Ortega’s government a “rude dictatorship” led by an “unbalanced” president. His statements triggered a breaking of bonds between the country and the Vatican. Dozens of religious leaders have reportedly fled the country since a brutal crackdown on protests in 2018 sparked an extreme authoritarian turn by Ortega.
Beyond Latin America, Pope Francis asked the international community to “end the war and all conflicts that make the world bleed, starting with Syria, which is still waiting for peace.”
“It is necessary that the dialogue between Israel and Palestine is regained,” he said, “so that peace can reign in the Holy Land and beyond.”
On Wednesday, the Israeli police stormed into the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem during Ramadan celebrations. The events sparked an increase in violence in Tel Aviv and the West Bank. With the rare overlap of Easter, Passover, and Ramadan, tensions have heightened as several religious festivities coalesce in Jerusalem — there is a heavy presence in the al-Aqsa mosque today.
The Pope also demanded international help for “the beloved people of Ukraine” and hoped that “the light of Easter [would] shine over the Russian people.”
The 86-year-old religious leader was hospitalized a week ago in Rome’s Gemelli hospital for bronchitis and there were doubts as to whether he would be able to lead events in the Holy Week, a significant week in the Christian calendar. However, he quickly recovered after an infusion of antibiotics and returned to his Vatican residence last weekend.
Francis is sometimes short of breath and suffers from respiratory problems, having had part of one lung removed in his early 20s when training to be a priest in Argentina.
The pope also suffers from diverticulitis, a condition that can infect or inflame the colon, and currently uses a cane or a wheelchair in public appearances due to a problem with his right knee. His latest hospitalization has revived speculation over a possible resignation on health grounds, following the historic precedent of his predecessor Benedict XVI, who died in December.
However, he has indicated he would follow that example only if he were gravely incapacitated.