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Pope Francis makes appeal for peace in Gaza in Easter message

Pope Francis made a strong appeal for a cease-fire in Gaza and the “prompt” release of all Israeli hostages during his traditional Easter message “to the city and the world” on Sunday.

The address came after Francis presided over Mass in the morning and made several loops around the piazza, greeting some of the tens of thousands of people the Vatican estimated to be in attendance.

Francis appeared “in good form,” The Associated Press reported, after battling respiratory problems all winter. It was a reassuring sign after Francis skipped the traditional Good Friday procession and skipped the Palm Sunday Mass last week, leaving an open question as to whether he would be fully participating in the Easter celebrations.

From the central balcony of the St. Peter’s Basilica, Francis delivered the traditional annual address, expressing his sympathies for those suffering throughout the world and calling for a prisoner exchange between Russia and Ukraine.

“My 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. 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, all for the sake of all.”

Francis called for humanitarian aid to be “ensured to Gaza,” for the “prompt” release of all Israeli hostages taken on Oct. 7, and for “an immediate cease-fire” in the Gaza Strip.

“Let us not allow the current hostilities to continue to have grave repercussions on the civil population, by now at the limit of its endurance, and above all on the children. How much suffering we see in the eyes of the children: The children in those lands at war have forgotten how to smile,” he added. “With those eyes, they ask us: Why? Why all this death? Why all this destruction? War is always an absurdity; war is always a defeat.”

“Let us not allow the strengthening winds of war to blow on Europe and the Mediterranean. Let us not yield to the logic of weapons and rearming. Peace is never made with arms, but with outstretched hands and open hearts.”

Francis said, “let us not forget Syria,” noting the immense suffering from “a long and devastating war.” He also expressed grief for the suffering of the Haitians and the Rohingya.

Francis 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.”

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