Decrying the “forces of evil,” Pope John Paul II used his Easter Sunday blessing to send a message of hope to victims of violence in Africa and Albania.
Some 100,000 people filled the flower-splashed St. Peter’s Square for the Easter Mass and then the blessing.
As has become his custom, the 76-year-old pontiff appealed in his blessing for peace in the world’s trouble spots.
“Christ is the hope … of those who see life and the future threatened by war and hatred, especially in the heart of Africa,” the pope said.
There were calls for peace from many countries Sunday. In Jerusalem, Christians gathered at the traditional site of Jesus Christ’s resurrection while in England, the Archbishop of Canterbury spoke of the pain felt by young people.
In his message, the pope called out to those “who work to strengthen peace and democracy, often obtained at the cost of great sacrifice, as in the Balkans, and especially in beloved Albania,” said the pope.
He also appealed for peace in the Holy Land, and said his thoughts went out to hostages held by rebels at the Japanese ambassador’s residence in Lima, Peru.
In Christ, “we can overcome the forces of evil,” said John Paul, who delivered Easter greetings in 57 languages.
John Paul appeared in relatively good form, if a bit tired, after a long week of celebrations which culminated in Sunday’s rites.
Albania, torn by chaos and violence, and Zaire, scene of a civil war, have been in the pope’s mind during Holy Week celebrations.
He has referred to the countries several times in public remarks, and involved Albanians and Zairians in services.
In England, Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey said the need for peace “is most obvious in those parts of the world disfigured by violent community conflicts.”
Preaching in Canterbury Cathedral, the spiritual leader of the Church of England, said God’s peace should begin in local communities.
“Too many people - especially young people - feel rejected and undervalued,” Carey said.
In Jerusalem, church bells resonated as thousands of Christians gathered in the Old City.
Palestinian Christians from the West Bank, however, were unable to reach the city because of a closure imposed by Israel following a March 21 suicide bombing in Tel Aviv.
The Church of the Holy Sepulcher - the church at the traditional site of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection - was crowded Sunday with Catholics celebrating Easter. Greek Orthodox, Armenian, Coptic and other Eastern Christians, who celebrate Easter next month, held services in their separate areas of the church.
The crowds in Jerusalem were thinner than in past years. Many pilgrims were deterred by recent violence.
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: NO BLESSING FROM THE BALCONY In a departure from tradition, the pope spoke from a chair near the outdoor altar, rather than from the balcony at St. Peter’s Basilica. Because of the mass’ late start, officials said, he risked missing a satellite link for worldwide broadcast if had gone to the balcony.
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