1 Apr 2013

Pope makes Easter appeal for peace

8:09 am on 1 April 2013

Pope Francis has delivered and impassioned plea for peace in his first Easter Sunday message since becoming the leader of the Catholic Church.

Speaking in front of about 250,000 people in St Peter's Square, he specifically referred to Syria and the Korean Peninsula.

In his "Urbi et Orbi" (To the city and the world) address, the pontiff called for peace in all the world's trouble spots, particularly in the Middle East and Asia, the BBC reports.

"May Israelis and Palestinians willingly and courageously resume negotiations to end a conflict that has lasted all too long.

"Peace in Iraq and, above all, for dear Syria for its people torn by conflict and for the many refugees who await help and comfort.

"Peace in Asia and, above all, on the Korean Peninsular. May disagreements be overcome and a renewed spirit of reconciliation grow."

For Africa, the Pope referred to Mali, Nigeria - "where attacks sadly continue" - the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic.

He also issued an appeal for hostages held by militants in Nigeria and condemned human trafficking as "the most extensive form of slavery in this 21st century".

Pope Francis, formerly Buenos Aires Archbishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio, was elected on 13 March, becoming the first non-European pope for almost 1300 years.

He replaced Benedict XVI, who held the office for eight years and became the first pontiff in more than 700 years to resign, saying he no longer had the physical strength to continue.

Francis has reinforced his image as a man of simple, down-to-earth tastes, not wearing the more ostentatious of papal costumes and, for the moment, not moving into the grandiose papal apartments.