Pope calls for Gaza ceasefire, Ukraine-Russia prisoner exchange in Easter message

Rallying from a winter-long bout of respiratory problems, Pope Francis has led some 30,000 people in Easter celebration, making a strong appeal for a cease-fire in Gaza and a prisoner swap between Russia and Ukraine.

Pope Francis presided over Easter Sunday Mass in a flower-decked St. Peter’s Square and then delivered a heartfelt prayer for peace in his annual roundup of global crises delivered from the loggia overlooking the piazza.

In between, he made several loops around the gathering in his popemobile, greeting well-wishers.

“Peace is never made with weapons, but with outstretched hands and open hearts,” Francis said, to applause from the wind-swept crowd below.

Francis appeared in good form, despite having celebrated the 2½-hour nighttime Easter Vigil just hours before.

The pontiff, who had part of one lung removed as a young man, has been battling respiratory problems all winter.

'Urbi et Orbi' blessing

Easter Mass is one of the most important dates on the liturgical calendar, celebrating what the faithful believe was Jesus’ resurrection after his crucifixion.

The Mass precedes the pope’s “Urbi et Orbi” –to the city and the world – blessing, in which the pope traditionally offers list of the threats afflicting humanity.

This year, Francis said his thoughts went particularly to people in Ukraine and Gaza and all those facing war – particularly the children who he said had “forgotten how to smile.”

Read more on RFI English

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