Pope urges end to violence in Libya in Easter message

POPE Benedict XVI urged an end to fighting in Libya and called for diplomacy, using his Easter Sunday message to call for peace in the Middle East.

Benedict also said that politics in North Africa and the Middle East should be based on respect for all.

“In the current conflict in Libya, may diplomacy and dialogue replace arms, and may those who suffer as a result of the conflict be given access to humanitarian aid,” he said.

Referring to northern Africa and the Middle East, the Pope prayed for the realisation of a society where “every political choice is inspired by respect for the human person”.

Benedict celebrated Easter Mass in St Peter’s Square, Rome, packed with pilgrims and tourists and ablaze in the bright colours of spring flowers as he marked the church’s most joyous day of the year.

But while “in heaven, all is peace and gladness,” Benedict said in his message delivered after the Mass from the central balcony of St Peter’s Basilica, “alas, it is not so on earth,” as he lamented hunger, disease, war and violence.

He prayed for people in the Middle East, “so that the light of peace and of human dignity may overcome the darkness of division, hate and violence”.

“In all the countries of northern Africa and the Middle East, may all citizens, especially young people, work to promote the common good and to build a society where poverty is defeated and every political choice is inspired by respect for the human person,” the Pope said.

Europe has been split over whether to accept or deport tens of thousands of migrants, many of them from Libya and elsewhere in northern Africa, who have been flooding European shores to flee unrest and bloodshed.

Benedict rallied to the side of the refugee, saying, “may people of goodwill open their hearts to welcome them”.

His Urbi et Orbi message to the city of Rome and the world also called for Ivory Coast to “tread the path of reconciliation and pardon”. He also prayed that Japan find consolation as it reels from the devastation from an earthquake and tsunami.

While choir voices rang out across the cobblestone square in late morning Mass, thousands more people were still arriving, filling the boulevard leading from the Tiber to the Vatican, and by the time the pope delivered his speech, well over 100,000 people had thronged to the area.

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