Pope Francis calls for ceasefires in Gaza and Ukraine in Easter message

  • Written by Thomas Mackintosh
  • BBC News

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Pope Francis waved to crowds at the Vatican on Easter Sunday Mass in St. Peter's Square

Pope Francis used his traditional Easter message to call for a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip and the return of Israeli hostages held by Hamas.

The 87-year-old pope led Easter Mass at the Vatican in front of thousands, despite concerns about his health.

Referring to conflicts around the world, the Pope called for not “giving in to the logic of weapons and rearmament.”

He added: “Peace is never made with weapons, but with outstretched hands and open hearts.”

Tens of thousands of worshipers gathered in St. Peter's Square to listen to His Holiness the Pope.

As new truce negotiations between Israel and Hamas were scheduled to begin, Pope Francis said: “I once again appeal for the guarantee of humanitarian access to Gaza, and I once again call for the immediate release of the hostages taken on October 7 and an immediate ceasefire in the Strip.”

Referring to the impact of war on civilians, starting with children, he said: “How much suffering we see in their eyes! With these eyes they ask us: Why? Why all this death? Why all this destruction? War is always there.” “Ridiculousness and defeat.”

Pope Francis also warned countries against rearming and spoke about the ongoing conflict in Ukraine just over two years since Russia launched its large-scale invasion of its neighbour.

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The Pope said that children in Gaza have lost their smiles

“By calling for respect for the principles of international law, I express my hope for a general exchange of all prisoners between Russia and Ukraine,” the Pope said.

The war in Gaza began after the unprecedented attack launched by Hamas on southern Israel, which resulted in the killing of about 1,200 people and the taking of about 253 hostages.

Israel launched a retaliatory operation, saying it aimed to destroy Hamas. Since then, 32,782 Palestinians have been killed and 75,298 others injured, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry.

Easter represents a large part of the Catholic calendar and is followed by 1.3 billion people around the world.

On Sunday, Pope Francis was assisted in a wheelchair as he received cardinals celebrating Easter Mass.

He then traveled around St. Peter's Square in the papal car waving to large crowds.

The Vatican said that two days ago, Pope Francis presided over the Good Friday Mass in St. Peter's Basilica, but he skipped the traditional Station of the Cross ceremony and procession at the Colosseum in Rome to protect his health.

A Vatican statement said that the Pope decided to rest as a precaution.

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The Easter event was broadcast from the Vatican around the world

But on Saturday, he participated in a two-hour Easter vigil during which he read a long sermon.

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