VATICAN CITY — In his first Easter Sunday message, Pope Francis passionately called for "peace in all the world," urging Israelis and Palestinians to "resume negotiations to end a conflict that has lasted all too long," calling for an end to the civil war in Syria, and promoting a "renewed spirit of reconciliation" on the Korean peninsula, where tensions have been rising.
The pope's first Urbi et Orbi message — Latin for to the city and the world — also deplored a world "divided by greed looking for easy gain," a world wounded by a selfishness that manifests itself in human trafficking, by the "violence linked to drug trafficking and by the iniquitous exploitation of natural resources."
And, in keeping with his namesake, St. Francis of Assisi, who is identified as the protector of animals and the environment, the pope called on all people to be "responsible guardians of creation."
An estimated 250,000 people jammed St. Peter's Square and nearby streets on Easter Sunday to celebrate the day on which Christians honor the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Many also came to get a first glimpse of Francis, who became pope less than three weeks ago but has already made a forceful impression with his down-to-earth style.
The faithful were not disappointed on Sunday. After the Solemn Mass — a pageantry-laden ceremony celebrated mostly in Latin — he boarded an open-topped jeep and rode around St. Peter's Square as thousands of cameras, smartphones and tablet computers immortalized what unfolded: the pope waving cheerfully, kissing babies and tenderly hugging a disabled boy. The images were relayed on large video screens in the square, and the crowd applauded and cheered.
The Urbi et Orbi messages that popes deliver twice a year often include calls for peace, singling out active global conflicts. Francis on Sunday called for peace in the Middle East, and for the end of violence in Iraq and in Syria.
"How much suffering must there still be before a political solution to the crisis will be found?" he said of the civil war in Syria and that has created more than 1 million refugees. He called for peace in Africa, emphasizing Mali, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic and Nigeria. And he asked the leaders of North Korea and South Korea to overcome disagreements and find "a renewed spirit of reconciliation."