"We need the Risen Crucified One to believe in the victory of love, to hope in reconciliation. Today more than ever we need Him, so that by placing Himself in our midst He may say to us once again: 'Peace be with you!' Let us let the peace of Christ enter our lives, our homes and our countries," Pope Francis encouraged.
The Holy Father's face was only taken off by the concern and pain of the faithful present in St. Peter's Square, more than one hundred thousand, according to the official Vatican agency, on a day of spring sunshine, whom he greeted from the popemobile, and thousands of flowers for the solemnity of Easter, which the Pope called, however, "Easter of war".
'Peace be with you, the greeting of Jesus to all those to whom he appeared after his Resurrection, was perhaps the message of the Lord most reiterated by Francis yesterday on the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica, after "two years of pandemic that have left deep marks. It seemed that the time had come to emerge together from the tunnel, holding hands, gathering strength and resources. And instead, we are showing that we still have in us the spirit of Cain, who looks at Abel not as a brother, but as a rival, and thinks of how to eliminate him," the Pope pointed out.
As was to be expected, the Bishop of Rome cried out for "peace in the martyred Ukraine, so sorely tried by the violence and destruction of the cruel and senseless war into which it has been dragged. May a new dawn of hope dawn soon over this terrible night of suffering and death. May peace be chosen. Let there be no more shows of strength while people suffer."
Please, please", the Roman Pontiff asked, "let us not become accustomed to war, let us all commit ourselves to ask for peace with a powerful voice, from the balconies and in the streets. May the leaders of nations hear the people's cry for peace", he cried out from Peter's See, before giving the 'Urbi et Orbi' Blessing before thousands of faithful.
Rediscovering Him, the Living One".
At the Easter Vigil, at sunset on Saturday evening, the Pope had encouraged us not to remain looking at the tombs, at the past. "We cannot make Easter if we remain in death; if we remain prisoners of the past; if in life we do not have the courage to allow ourselves to be forgiven by God..., to change, to break with the works of evil, to decide for Jesus and for his love; if we continue to reduce faith to an amulet, making God a beautiful memory of times past, instead of encountering him today as the living God who wants to transform us and the world."
"A Christianity that seeks the Lord among the remains of the past and locks Him in the tomb of the habit is a Christianity without Easter. But the Lord is risen! Let us not linger around the tombs, but go to rediscover Him, the Living One!" the Pope exhorted.
"Women see, hear and announce."
At the Vigil he had referred to the women of the Gospel, who "see", and saw that "the stone was rolled away. When they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. The first proclamation of the Resurrection, the Pontiff pointed out, is not presented as a formula to be understood, but "as a sign to be contemplated. Easter, therefore, begins by changing our patterns. It comes with the gift of a surprising hope. But it is not easy to accept it. Sometimes, we must admit, this hope does not find room in our hearts. In us too, as in the women of the Gospel, questions and uncertainties prevail, and the first reaction to the unforeseen sign is fear, "not looking up from the ground".
But the women "hear the announcement" that says to them: 'Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here: he is risen!' The Pope pointed out that it does us good to hear and repeat these words, "He is not here!".
And the women "announce. What do they announce? The joy of the Resurrection. Easter does not happen to intimately console those who mourn the death of Jesus - the Pontiff stressed - but to open hearts wide to the extraordinary proclamation of God's victory over evil and death". For this reason, the light of the Resurrection (...) generates missionary disciples who "return from the tomb" and bring the Gospel of the Risen Christ to all. That is why, after having seen and heard, the women ran to announce the joy of the Resurrection to the disciples".
An "Easter of war".
In his Easter Message, the Pope seemed to continue the thread of his Vigil meditation on the Resurrection of Jesus, and applied it to difficult current situations.
"Jesus, the Crucified One, is risen. He appears in the midst of those who weep for him, shut up in their homes, full of fear and anguish. He stands in their midst and says to them: 'Peace be with you' (Jn 20:19). He shows them the wounds in his hands and feet, and the wound in his side. It is not a ghost, it is He, the same Jesus who died on the cross and was in the tomb. Before the incredulous looks of the disciples, He repeats: 'Peace be with you' (v. 21)."
"Our eyes are also incredulous at this Easter of war," he continued. "We have seen too much blood, too much violence. Our hearts too were filled with fear and anguish, while so many of our brothers and sisters had to hide to defend themselves from the bombs. We find it hard to believe that Jesus is truly risen, that he has truly conquered death. Is it perhaps an illusion, a fruit of our imagination? No, it is not an illusion. Today more than ever resounds the Easter proclamation so dear to the Christian East: 'Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!'. Today more than ever we need Him, at the end of a Lent that does not seem to want to end".
"I hold the Ukrainian victims in my heart."
Ukraine, Europa. The Pope then confided: "I hold in my heart the many Ukrainian victims, the millions of refugees and internally displaced persons, the families divided, the elderly left alone, the lives shattered and the cities razed to the ground. I have before my eyes the eyes of the children left orphaned and fleeing the war."
"Looking at them, we cannot fail to perceive their cry of pain, along with that of many other suffering children around the world: those who die of hunger or lack of medical care, those who are victims of abuse and violence, and those who have been denied the right to be born."
"Amid the pain of war, there is also no lack of hopeful signs, such as the open doors of so many families and communities welcoming migrants and refugees throughout Europe. May these many acts of charity be a blessing for our societies, often degraded by so much selfishness and individualism, and help to make them welcoming for all."
Caring in the face of suffering and pain
And also, as is customary at least at Christmas and Easter, Pope Francis toured almost the entire world. "May the conflict in Europe also make us more solicitous in the face of other situations of tension, suffering and pain that affect too many regions of the world and that we cannot and must not forget," he stressed.
Middle East. "Let there be peace in the Middle East, torn for years by divisions and conflicts. On this glorious day let us pray for peace for Jerusalem and peace for those who love it (cf. Ps 121 ), Christians, Jews and Muslims. May Israelis, Palestinians and all the inhabitants of the Holy City, together with pilgrims, experience the beauty of peace, live in fraternity and have free access to the Holy Places, respecting each other's rights".
"May there be peace and reconciliation among the peoples of Lebanon, Syria and Iraq, and particularly among all Christian communities living in the Middle East.
May there be peace also in Libya, so that it may find stability after years of tensions; and in Yemen, which is suffering from a conflict forgotten by all with incessant victims, may the truce signed in recent days restore hope to the population".
Myanmar. "We ask the risen Lord for the gift of reconciliation for Myanmar, where a dramatic scenario of hatred and violence persists, and for Afghanistan, where dangerous social tensions are not calming down and a dramatic humanitarian crisis is tormenting the population".
Africa. "May there be peace throughout the African continent, so that the exploitation to which it is victim and the hemorrhage caused by terrorist attacks - especially in the Sahel zone - may end, and may it find concrete help in the fraternity of peoples. May Ethiopia, afflicted by a serious humanitarian crisis, once again find the path of dialogue and reconciliation, and an end to the violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo." May there be no lack of prayer and solidarity for the inhabitants of the eastern part of South Africa affected by severe floods".
Latin America. "May the Risen Christ accompany and assist the peoples of Latin America who, in these difficult times of pandemic, have seen their social conditions worsen, in some cases, aggravated also by cases of criminality, violence, corruption and drug trafficking".
Canada. "We ask the Risen Lord to accompany the path of reconciliation that the Canadian Catholic Church is following with the indigenous peoples. May the Spirit of the Risen Christ heal the wounds of the past and dispose hearts in the search for truth and fraternity.
"Dear brothers and sisters," Pope Francis concluded, "every war brings with it consequences that affect the whole of humanity: from the mourning and drama of refugees, to the economic and food crisis of which we are already seeing signs."
"In the face of the persistent signs of war, as in the many painful defeats of life, Christ, conqueror of sin, fear and death, exhorts us not to surrender in the face of evil and violence. Let us let ourselves be conquered by the peace of Christ! Peace is possible, peace is necessary, peace is the primary responsibility of all!"