This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.
Pope Francis called for prayers for both the Ukrainian and Russian people as he presided over Easter Sunday Mass in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican and delivered his semiannual message to the world.
Francis, 86, spoke on April 9 before tens of thousands of faithful gathered on the square after unseasonable cold forced him to skip the Way of the Cross outdoor procession on Good Friday — a precaution following his hospitalization for bronchitis at the end of March.
Speaking from a balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica, Francis asked God to “help the beloved Ukrainian people on their journey toward peace, and shed the light of Easter upon the people of Russia.″
The pope prayed for “comfort for the wounded and those who have lost loved ones to war” and for the safe return of prisoners of war.
The head of the Roman Catholic Church also urged the international community to work to end the war and all conflicts that “stain the world with blood” in his Urbi et Orbi — Latin for “to the city and the world” — message.
Since the beginning of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the pontiff has mentioned Ukraine in almost all of his public speeches and has increasingly criticized Moscow.
Francis, who also called on Israelis and Palestinian to work toward “a climate of trust,” spoke as Orthodox Christians observed Palm Sunday and the start of Holy Week. In the Eastern Orthodox Church — followed by many Christians in Russia and Ukraine — Easter is on April 16 this year.
Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby also used his traditional Easter message to highlight the war in Ukraine. Welby, head of the worldwide Anglican Communion, said Easter Sunday provided hope that “true peace is no aimless daydream, but a reality offered because Christ was raised from the dead.”
Delivering a sermon in Canterbury, England, Welby said injustice and brutality “may seem to triumph in our short lives on Earth, cruel and oppressive rulers might look as though they only get stronger. Yet they will vanish. The power of the resurrection is infinitely greater than they are.”