Pope Francis at Urbi et Orbi

By Deborah Castellano Lubov

Apr 1 2024

Following the Easter Sunday Mass, Pope Francis delivers his Easter message and blessing “To the City and the World,” praying especially for the Holy Land, Ukraine, Myanmar, Syria, Lebanon, and Africa, as well as for victims of human trafficking, unborn children, and all experiencing hard times.

Pope Francis gave his traditional “Urbi et Orbi” Easter message on Sunday, appearing from the central loggia of Saint Peter’s Basilica overlooking the Square below where he had just presided over the Easter morning Mass.

The Mass and “Urbi et Urbi” (from the Latin: ‘To the city and the world’) message and blessing went out live on broadcasts around the world.

 The Holy Father began his remarks by joyfully wishing all those following, including the some 60,000 pilgrims present in St Peter’s Square, “Happy Easter!”

Today throughout the world, he recalled, there resounds the message proclaimed two thousand years ago from Jerusalem: “Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified, has been raised!” (Mk 16:6).

The Pope reiterated that the Church relives the amazement of the women who went to the tomb at dawn on the first day of the week.

While recalling the tomb of Jesus had been sealed with a great stone, the Pope lamented that today, too, “heavy stones, block the hopes of humanity,” especially “stones” of war, humanitarian crises, human rights violations, human trafficking, among others other stones as well. 

From Jesus’ empty tomb, all begins anew

Like the women disciples of Jesus, the Pope suggested, “we ask one another: ‘Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?’ This, he said, is the amazing discovery of that Easter morning, that the immense stone, was rolled away. “The astonishment of the women,” he said, “is our astonishment as well.”

“The tomb of Jesus is open and it is empty! From this, everything begins anew!” he exclaimed.  

“The tomb of Jesus is open and it is empty! From this, everything begins anew!”

Moreover, he insisted, a new path leads through that empty tomb, “the path that none of us, but God alone, could open.” The Lord, he said, opens the path of life in the midst of death, of peace in the midst of war, of reconciliation in the midst of hatred, and of fraternity in the midst of hostility.

Jesus, the way to reconciliation and peace

“Brothers and sisters, Jesus Christ is risen!” he said, noting He alone has the power to roll away the stones that block the path to life.

Without the forgiveness of sins, the Pope explained, there is no way to overcome the barriers of prejudice, mutual recrimination, the presumption that we are always right and others wrong. “Only the risen Christ, by granting us the forgiveness of our sins,” he said, “opens the way for a renewed world.”

“Jesus alone,” the Holy Father reassured, “opens up before us the doors of life, those doors that continually we shut with the wars spreading throughout the world,” as he expressed his wish today, “first and foremost, to turn our eyes to the Holy City of Jerusalem, that witnessed the mystery of the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus, and to all the Christian communities of the Holy Land.”

Holy Land and Ukraine

The Pope began by saying his thoughts go especially to the victims of the many conflicts worldwide, beginning with those in Israel and Palestine, and in Ukraine.   “May the risen Christ open a path of peace for the war-torn peoples of those regions,” he said.

“In calling for respect for the principles of international law,” he continued, “I express my hope for a general exchange of all prisoners between Russia and Ukraine: all for the sake of all!”

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

Humanitarian aid to Gaza, release of hostages

The Pope then turned to Gaza.

“I appeal once again that access to humanitarian aid be ensured to Gaza, and call once more for the prompt release of the hostages seized on 7 October last and for an immediate cease-fire in the Strip.”

“I appeal once again that access to humanitarian aid be ensured to Gaza, and call once more for the prompt release of the hostages seized on 7 October last and for an immediate cease-fire in the Strip.”

The Pope appealed for an end to current hostilities that continue to have grave repercussions on the civil population, and above all, on the children.  

“How much suffering we see in their eyes!  With those eyes, they ask us: Why?  Why all this death?  Why all this destruction? 

The Pope reiterated that war is always “a defeat” and “an absurdity.”

“Let us not yield to the logic of weapons and rearming,” he said, stressing that “peace is never made with arms, but with outstretched hands and open hearts.”

Syria and Lebanon

The Holy Father remembered Syria, which, he lamented, has, for thirteen years, suffered from the effects of “a long and devastating” war.  

“So many deaths and disappearances, so much poverty and destruction,” he insisted, “call for a response on the part of everyone, and of the international community.”

The Pope then turned to Lebanon, noting that for some time, the country has experienced institutional impasse and a deepening economic and social crisis, now aggravated by the hostilities on its border with Israel.  

“May the Risen Lord console the beloved Lebanese people and sustain the entire country in its vocation to be a land of encounter, coexistence and pluralism,” he said.

The Pope also remembered the region of the Western Balkans, and encouraged the discussions taking place between Armenia and Azerbaijan, “so that, with the support of the international community, they can pursue dialogue, assist the displaced, respect the places of worship of the various religious confessions, and arrive as soon as possible at a definitive peace agreement.”

“May the risen Christ open a path of hope to all those who in other parts of the world are suffering from violence, conflict, food insecurity and the effects of climate change,” he also said.

Haiti, Myanmar, Africa

In his latest appeal for Haiti, he prayed that the Risen Lord assist the Haitian people, “so that there can soon be an end to the acts of violence, devastation and bloodshed in that country, and that it can advance on the path to democracy and fraternity.”

While turning to Asia, he prayed that in Myanmar “every logic of violence may be definitively abandoned,” in the nation, which, he said, has been for years now “torn by internal conflicts.”

The Pope also prayed for paths of peace on the African continent, “especially for the suffering peoples in Sudan and in the entire region of the Sahel, in the Horn of Africa, in the region of Kivu in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and in the province of Capo Delgado in Mozambique,” and for bringing “an end to the prolonged situation of drought which affects vast areas and provokes famine and hunger.”

Precious gift of life and discarded unborn children

The Pope also remembered migrants and all experiencing difficulties, praying the Lord offer them consolation and hope in their moment of need.  “May Christ guide all persons of good will to unite themselves in solidarity, in order to address together the many challenges which loom over the poorest families in their search for a better life and happiness,” he said.

“On this day when we celebrate the life given us in the Resurrection of the Son,” he said, “let us remember the infinite love of God for each of us: a love that overcomes every limit and every weakness.”  

“And yet,” he lamented, “how much the precious gift of life is despised!  How many children cannot even be born?  How many die of hunger and are deprived of essential care or are victims of abuse and violence?  How many lives are made objects of trafficking for the increasing commerce in human beings?””

Appeal to spare no efforts

On the day “when Christ has set us free from the slavery of death,” the Pope appealed to all who have political responsibilities to “spare no efforts” in combatting “the scourge” of human trafficking, by “working tirelessly to dismantle the networks of exploitation and to bring freedom” to those who are their victims.  

“May the Lord comfort their families, above all those who anxiously await news of their loved ones, and ensure them comfort and hope,” he said, as he prayed that the light of the Resurrection “illumine our minds and convert our hearts, and make us aware of the value of every human life, which must be welcomed, protected and loved.”

Pope Francis concluded by wishing all the people of Rome and of the world a Happy Easter.

The Pope’s full Urbi et Orbi message in English can be read on the Vatican website. Vatican News