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Pope seeks peace in Africa, urges Russia-Ukraine prisoners exchange

Pope Francis in his Easter message on Sunday prayed for peace on the African continent and sought the exchange of prisoners between Russia and Ukraine in a bid to put an end to the war.

The pope urged the world to resist “the logic of weapons” in his Easter message at the Vatican, easing growing health fears as he greeted thousands of Catholics.

The 87-year-old’s “Urbi et Orbi” (To the City and the World) blessing came after he led Easter Mass in front of 60,000 worshippers at Saint Peter’s Square while appearing in good spirits.

“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!

“I appeal once again that access to humanitarian aid is 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,” he said in his speech broadcasted worldwide.

“May the Lord open 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 bring an end to the prolonged situation of drought which affects vast areas and provokes famine and hunger.”

Francis also urged world leaders to “spare no efforts in combating the scourge of human trafficking” to free its victims.

Moments before the blessing, Francis passed through the adoring crowd on his “popemobile” as pilgrims shouted “Long live the pope!”, waved flags and strained to take pictures.

Easter Sunday marks the resurrection of Jesus Christ and is the culmination of Holy Week, a major part of the Catholic calendar followed by 1.3 billion people.

Leaders across Africa have preached tolerance, love and unity even as countries in the continent continue to grapple with economic instability.

In his Easter message, President Bola Tinubu lauded Nigerians for their patience amid the economic hardship, noting that their sacrifice was beginning the yield results.

“I strongly commend Nigerians for the sacrifices they have made in the past few months for the nation to be steered to the path of recovery and sustainable growth and assure Nigerians that the seeds of patience which they have grown are beginning to sprout and will in no time bring forth an abundance of good fruits,” his message on X partly read.

Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State said Easter “is a time for celebration, reflection, and renewal. It is a time to come together with loved ones and express our gratitude for the blessings in our lives.”

He said he was proud to see “the resilience and strength of our state, especially during these times. I am grateful for the unwavering spirit and determination of our residents.”

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