Pope’s Easter message calls for an end to Syria war and peace in the Middle East
In his traditional Easter message from the Vatican, Pope Francis called for an end to the “carnage” in Syria and “reconciliation” in the Middle East. Thousands of people gathered in St Peter’s Square to hear him speak from the balcony of the basilica and millions watched the speech broadcast live around the world.
“Today we implore fruits of peace upon the entire world, beginning with the beloved and long-suffering land of Syria whose people are worn down by an apparently endless war,” said the Pope in the “Urbi et Orbi” (To the City and the World) address.
“This Easter may the light of the risen Christ illuminate the consciences of all political and military leaders, so that a swift end may be brought to the carnage in the course; that humanitarian law may be respected; and that provisions be made to facilitate access to the aid so urgently needed.”
Pope Francis urged that “provisions be made to facilitate access to the aid so urgently needed by our brothers and sisters, while also ensuring fitting conditions for the return of the displaced” to Syria.
During the first five years of his reign, Pope Francis has been consistently outspoken in condemning the Syrian conflict. In 2013, he was credited with leading moral opposition to Western military intervention. As he spoke, a final deal was reportedly reached for fighters and civilians to leave the last opposition-held pocket of Eastern Ghouta. Tens of thousands of people have now evacuated once bustling towns in the suburbs east of the capital, which had nearly 2 million people before the start of the conflict and was major commercial and industrial hubs.This marked a major milestone in President Bashar al-Assad’s efforts to regain control of territory seized by rebel factions during the seven-year civil war which has left 350,000 dead and displaced millions.
Turning to the wider region, Francis said: “We beseech fruits of reconciliation for the Holy Land, also experiencing in these days the wounds of an ongoing conflict that do not spare the defenceless, for Yemen and for the entire Middle East, so that dialogue and mutual respect may prevail over division and violence.”
The Pope said the power of the Christian message gave hope to the deprived. This included migrants and refugees who he said were “so often rejected by today’s culture of waste”. Francis called for international assistance for Venezuela so that more people would not have to abandon their homeland because of the economic and political crisis.He also asked God to heal the wounds in South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo and called for dialogue on the Korean peninsula.