The Vatican

Francis calls for respect for human life in his Easter Message for 2024

May the Risen Christ open a path of peace for the martyred populations of the Holy Land and Ukraine, with respect for international law, an immediate cease-fire and the rapid release of the hostages. May the light of the resurrection make us "aware of the value of every human life", Pope Francis prayed in the Urbi et Orbi Blessing of 2024.  

Francisco Otamendi-March 31, 2024-Reading time: 6 minutes
Pope Easter Vigil

Pope Francis blesses the faithful at the end of the Easter Vigil 2024 @OSV

Respect "for the precious gift of life" has been a central idea of the Easter Message Pope Francis in the Urbi et Orbi Blessing to the people of Rome and the world, given by the Holy Father from the central balcony after the celebration of this year's solemn Easter Sunday Mass in St. Peter's Square and the recitation of the Regina Coeli to the Virgin Mary. The message was read by the Pope.

At the Mass, presided over by the Holy Father and whose first concelebrant was Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, dean of the College of Cardinals, the famous Gospel in which Mary Magdalene went to the tomb at dawn, saw the slab removed from the tomb, and after warning Peter and the "other disciple, whom Jesus loved," it was they who ran and saw the linen cloths lying and the shroud with which Jesus' head had been covered.

"Jesus of Nazareth, the Crucified One, is risen." 

"Today the proclamation that went forth two thousand years ago from Jerusalem resounds throughout the world: "Jesus of Nazareth, the Crucified One, is risen" (cf. Mk 16:6),2 the Holy Father began his message.

"The Church relives the amazement of the women who went to the tomb at dawn on the first day of the week. The tomb of Jesus had been closed with a great stone; and so too today there are heavy rocks, too heavy, that close the hopes of humanity: the rock of war, the rock of humanitarian crises, the rock of human rights violations, the rock of human trafficking, and others." 

We too, like the women disciples of Jesus, asked one another: "Who will roll these stones away from us? And here is the great discovery of Easter morning: the stone, that great stone, had already been rolled away. The astonishment of the women is our astonishment. The tomb of Jesus is open and empty. From there everything begins".

"Jesus alone removes the stones that close the way to life."

"Jesus Christ is risen, and He alone is able to remove the stones that block the path to life. Moreover, He Himself, the Living One, is the Way; the Way of life, of peace, of reconciliation, of fraternity," the Pope continued.

"He opens for us a passage that is humanly impossible, because He alone takes away the sin of the world and forgives our sins. And without God's forgiveness that stone cannot be removed. Without the forgiveness of sins, it is not possible to get out of the closed minds, prejudices, reciprocal suspicions or presumptions that always absolve oneself and accuse others. 

Only the risen Christ, giving us the forgiveness of sins, opens the way to a renewed world. He alone opens for us the doors of life, those doors that we continually close with the wars that proliferate in the world. 

On this day in which we celebrate the life given to us in the resurrection of the Son, we remember God's infinite love for each one of us, a love that surpasses every limit and every weakness". 

"Contempt for the precious gift of life."

"And yet, how often the precious gift of life is scorned," the Successor of Peter stressed. "How many children cannot even see the light? How many die of hunger or lack essential care or are victims of abuse and violence? How many lives are bought and sold for the growing trade in human beings?" 

"On the day on which Christ has freed us from the slavery of death, I urge all those with political responsibilities to spare no effort to combat the scourge of human trafficking, working tirelessly to dismantle its networks of exploitation and to lead those who are its victims to freedom. 

May the Lord comfort their families, especially those who anxiously await news of their loved ones, assuring them of comfort and hope. 

May the light of the resurrection enlighten our minds and convert our hearts, making us aware of the value of every human life, which must be welcomed, protected and loved. 

Holy Land, Ukraine, Syria, Lebanon, Balkans, Armenia and Azerbaijan

In his address, the Pope addressed "his thoughts primarily to the victims of so many conflicts that are ongoing in the world, beginning with those in Israel and Palestine, and in Ukraine. May the Risen Christ open a path of peace for the martyred populations of these regions" and formulated the petitions indicated at the beginning for a cease-fire, the release of hostages, etc.

"Let us not allow the ongoing hostilities to continue to severely affect the already exhausted civilian population, and especially the children. How much suffering we see in their eyes. With their eyes they ask us: why? Why so much death? Why so much destruction? War is always an absurdity and a defeat. Let us not allow the winds of war to blow ever stronger over Europe and the Mediterranean. Let us not give in to the logic of arms and rearmament. Peace is never built with weapons, but by reaching out and opening our hearts". 

He then referred to Syria," which has been suffering the consequences of a long and devastating war for fourteen years. So many dead, so many missing people, so much poverty and destruction await answers from everyone, including the international community. 

My gaze turns today in a special way to Lebanon, long affected by an institutional blockade and a profound economic and social crisis, now aggravated by hostilities on the border with Israel. May the Risen Lord console the beloved Lebanese people and sustain the whole country in its vocation to be a land of encounter, coexistence and pluralism. 

My thoughts turn in particular to the Western Balkan Region, where significant steps are being taken towards integration into the European project. May ethnic, cultural and confessional differences not be a cause of division, but a source of wealth for the whole of Europe and the entire world. 

I also encourage talks between Armenia and Azerbaijan so that, with the support of the international community, they can continue the dialogue, help displaced persons, respect the places of worship of the various religious denominations and reach a final peace agreement as soon as possible". 

Terrorism, Myanmar, Haiti, African continent...

"May the Risen Christ open a path of hope to people in other parts of the world who suffer from violence, conflict and food insecurity, as well as from the effects of climate change. 

May it give comfort to the victims of all forms of terrorism. Let us pray for those who have lost their lives and implore the repentance and conversion of the perpetrators of these crimes. 

May the Risen Lord assist the Haitian people, so that the violence that is wounding and bloodying the country may cease as soon as possible, and that they may progress on the path of democracy and fraternity. May he comfort the Rohinyá, afflicted by a serious humanitarian crisis, and open the way to reconciliation in Myanmar, a country that has been torn by internal conflicts for years, so that every logic of violence may be abandoned once and for all. 

To open avenues for peace on the African continent, especially for the exhausted populations in Sudan and throughout the Sahel region, in the Horn of Africa, in the Kivu region of the Democratic Republic of Congo and in the province of Cabo Delgado in Mozambique, and to put an end to the prolonged drought situation that affects large areas and causes famine and hunger. 

May the Risen Lord shine his light on migrants and on all those who are going through a period of economic hardship, bringing them comfort and hope in times of need. 

May Christ guide all people of good will to unite in solidarity, to face together the many challenges that concern the poorest families in their search for a better life and happiness".

At the end of the Mass, before reading the Easter Message, the Pontiff greeted the many faithful present in St. Peter's Square.

In concluding, as emphasized, Pope Francis prayed that "the light of the resurrection may illuminate our minds and convert our hearts, making us aware of the value of every human life, which must be welcomed, protected and loved. Happy Easter to all!"

Calls to prayer

The Pope's appeals to prayer, in particular for peace in the face of the wars and conflicts that plague the world, have intensified in recent years. Without going any further, the Way of the Cross of Good Friday, written by the Roman Pontiff although he was unable to attend in person, was marked by the celebration of the year dedicated to prayer in the Church. For this reason, there were many references to Christian prayer.

At the same time, hope has been one of the virtues most frequently mentioned by Pope Francis in recent days. For example, at the Easter Vigil yesterday, or in his recent words to the youth of the world on the occasion of the fifth anniversary of his apostolic exhortation "Christus vivit", in which he encouraged them to recover hope.

"Let us cling to the Risen One."

When considering the fact narrated in the Gospels, that the stone of the tomb, which was very large, had been rolled away, the Pontiff noted yesterday at the Easter Vigil that this is "the Passover of Christ, the power of God, the victory of life over death, the triumph of light over darkness, the rebirth of hope amidst the rubble of failure. It is the Lord, the God of the impossible who, for all time, rolled away the stone and began to open our gravesso that hope may have no end. Towards him, then, we too must raise our eyes". 

The authorFrancisco Otamendi

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