21 Apr 2014

Pope condemns waste, calls for peace

10:27 am on 21 April 2014

In his Easter address before a huge crowd, Pope Francis denounced the "immense wastefulness" in the world while many go hungry and called for an end to conflicts in Syria, Ukraine and Africa.

Francis celebrated a Mass to an overflowing crowd of at least 150,000 in St. Peter's Square and beyond.

Pope Francis delivers the Urbi et Orbi blessing from the balcony of St Peter's.

Pope Francis delivers the Urbi et Orbi blessing from the balcony of St Peter's. Photo: AFP / Osservatore Romano

The crowd stretched back along all of Via della Conciliazione, the boulevard between the Vatican and the Tiber River.

"We ask you, Lord Jesus, to put an end to all war and every conflict, whether great or small, ancient or recent," he said in his "Urbi et Orbi" (to the city and the world) message.

Francis prayed to God to "help us to overcome the scourge of hunger, aggravated by conflicts and by the immense wastefulness for which we are often responsible".

Since his election as the first non-European pope in 1300 years, Francis had made defence of the poor a hallmark of his papacy, often criticising developed nations and the excesses of capitalism and consumerism.

The pontiff prayed for the protection of those members of society who are particularly vulnerable to exploitation, abuse and abandonment - women, children, the elderly and immigrants.

The 77-year-old pope called on the international community to "boldly negotiate the peace long awaited and long overdue" in Syria. More than 150,000 people have been killed in Syria's civil war, a third of them civilians, and millions have fled the country.

Francis asked God to inspire the initiatives that promote peace in Ukraine, and asked for an end to violence in Iraq, Venezuela, South Sudan and the Central Africa Republic.

Easter is the most important day on the liturgical calendar because it commemorates the day Christians believe Jesus rose from the dead after his crucifixion and the Church sees it as a symbol of hope, peace and reconciliation among peoples and nations.