Pope Benedict XVI said today that reconciliation was the only way to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and said the entire world needed to rediscover hope to end wars, poverty and financial turmoil.
In his Easter Sunday message, delivered from the central loggia of St Peter’s Basilica, Benedict noted that he plans to travel to the Holy Land in just a few weeks and said he would bring a message of hope and love to the region.
The 81-year-old Pope tripped as he climbed up to his gilded chair on the loggia, but recovered without incident and delivered his speech to the crowds below.
“Reconciliation – difficult but indispensable – is a precondition for a future of overall security and peaceful coexistence, and it can only be achieved through renewed, persevering and sincere efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” he said.
Benedict delivered his “Urbi et Orbi” speech – Latin for “to the city and the world” – at the end of his Easter Sunday Mass, attended by tens of thousands of people who packed St Peter’s Square and the boulevard leading up to it.
The piazza, decorated with yellow tulips, azaleas and other spring flowers, overflowed with the faithful who came out on an overcast day to celebrate Jesus Christ’s resurrection, the most joyous and important day in the Christian church calendar.
The crowd shouted “Benedetto” – Italian for Benedict – as they waited for him to appear at the loggia. They cheered as they awaited his Easter blessing, this year being delivered in 63 languages.
In his first greeting – in Italian – Benedict offered special Easter wishes for the victims of Italy’s devastating earthquake, praying that they have “the courage necessary to go forward together to build a future open to hope”.
In his speech, Benedict said it was “urgent” to find hope around the globe, despite mounting reasons for despair.
“At a time of world food shortage, of financial turmoil, of old and new forms of poverty, of disturbing climate change, of violence and deprivation which force many to leave their homelands in search of a less precarious form of existence, of the ever present threat of terrorism, of growing fears over the future, it is urgent to rediscover grounds for hope,” he said.
He recalled his recent trip to Africa in urging the faithful to keep up hope to combat poverty and wars.
“Africa suffers disproportionately from the cruel and unending conflicts, often forgotten, that are causing so much bloodshed and destruction in several of her nations, and from the growing numbers of her sons and daughters who fall prey to hunger, poverty and disease,” Benedict said.
Benedict celebrated Easter Mass after presiding over the solemn, three-plus-hour Easter Vigil ceremony Saturday night. At the end of that service, Benedict sounded hoarse and looked tired.
But the Pope – who turns 82 on Thursday – appeared well-rested by this morning and held up well throughout the Mass.
He is expected to travel this afternoon to the papal summer retreat in Castel Gandolfo, in the hills south of Rome, for a few days of rest after the busy Holy Week services.
The pope’s Middle East tour next month, his first to the region as pope, will include Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian territories, with stops in cities including Amman, Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Nazareth.