Pope Francis spoke hours after North Korea warned the United States to end its “military hysteria”. (Reuters: Stefano Rellandini)
Pope Francis denounced “oppressive regimes” in his Easter Sunday message but, in an apparent call for restraint, urged world leaders to prevent the spread of conflicts, as tensions rose in North Korea and Syria.
The Pope, marking the fifth Easter season of his pontificate, said Mass before tens of thousands of people under exceptional security measures in St Peter’s Square, following recent vehicle attacks against pedestrians in London and Stockholm.
In his Urbi et Orbi (to the city and the world) message, delivered from the central balcony of St Peter’s Basilica, he spoke of a world lacerated by conflicts and laced with tensions.
“In the complex and often dramatic situations of today’s world, may the Risen Lord guide the steps of all those who work for justice and peace,” he said.
“May he grant the leaders of nations the courage they need to prevent the spread of conflicts and to put a halt to the arms trade.”
Pope Francis spoke hours after North Korea warned the United States to end its “military hysteria” or face retaliation as a US aircraft carrier group steamed towards the region and the reclusive state marked the 105th birth anniversary of its founding father.
The Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, Anthony Fisher, says Easter is a time of hope in the face of personal struggle.
“We look into the tombs of our lives and see nothing but emptiness,” he said.
“Look into our hearts and find nothing but longing. But Easter says, ‘Look again’.”
‘We experience a world of pain and despair’
Egyptian Coptic Pope Tawadros II leads prayers days after a deadly attack on followers. (AP: Nariman El-Mofty)
The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby used his Easter Sunday address at Canterbury Cathedral to decry the “horrendous” deadly attacks last week on Christians in Egypt.
He reflected on the fact Western Christian, Orthodox churches and Coptic Christian Church in Egypt, were celebrating Easter at the same time this year.
“Christians in Egypt live surrounded by bombs and terror. We and those we love know the grim, grey moments of illness, suffering, arguments, poverty, ill health mental and physical, prison, guilt and failure,” he said.
“We experience a world of pain and despair, grief and death.
“But the words Jesus says on that first Easter day, he says to you and me now. To each of us, to listen, to take hold of within our hearts: ‘do not be afraid’.”
Anglican Archbishop of Melbourne, Philip Freier, used his Easter message to urge his congregation to work towards regaining compassion and virtue and said the community must aspire to overcome human failings.
“Our own times seem to have many dark clouds of threat,” he said.
“Even as many of us live in a world where our material needs are abundantly filled we know that many others, too many others, struggle just to meet their daily needs.”
World is ‘following the path… of death and hopelessness’
Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill conducts the Easter service in Moscow on the early hours of Sunday. (Reuters: Sergei Karpukhin)
The Western Christian church follows the Gregorian calendar, while the Eastern Orthodox uses the older Julian calendar and the two Easters are often weeks apart.
Late Saturday, Orthodox clerics transported the holy flame from Jerusalem by plane and it was then flown to other churches around the country.
According to tradition the flame appears each year at the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem and is taken to other Orthodox countries.
In Russia, where Orthodox Christianity is the dominant religion, President Vladimir Putin along with Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and his wife Svetlana attended midnight Mass at Moscow’s Christ the Saviour Cathedral.
Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, embraces President Vladimir Putin during the Easter service. (Reuters: Sergei Karpukhin)
In Serbia, the head of the Serbian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Irinej, held a liturgy in Belgrade’s St. Sava Temple which outgoing president Tomislav Nikolic attended.
Patriarch Irinej said in his Easter message that “with great sadness and pain in our hearts, we must note that today’s world is not following the path of resurrection but the road of death and hopelessness.” He also lamented the falling birth rate in Serbia as “a reason to cry and weep, but also an alarm.”
Orthodoxy also is predominant in Greece, Bulgaria, Ukraine and Moldova.