Fr Leonard E Dollentas
This year’s Easter rite in the Vatican is Pope Francis’ first public Easter since the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2019. On Easter day, the 85-year-old pontiff spoke to 50,000 people who were jubilant to see the Pope during Easter. In his moving address to thousands in St. Peter’s Square, he maintained his determined stand against Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine and called for peace in the bloody conflict. He condemned the merciless bombings that have rained down across embattled Ukraine.
With an unwavering voice, he said: “We have seen all too much blood, all too much violence. Our hearts, too, have been filled with fear and anguish, as so many of our brothers and sisters have had to lock themselves away to be safe from bombing… Let us all commit ourselves to implore peace, from our balconies and in our streets. May the leaders of nations hear people’s plea for peace.”
The Pope has not specifically mentioned Russia or its president, Vladimir Putin, since the start of the conflict, but he left little doubt which side he was denouncing, using terms such as “unjustified aggression” and “invasion,” and lamenting atrocities against civilians. He was saddened that this war has to prolong its violence and destruction through Easter. “Our eyes, too, are incredulous on this Easter of war,” he said.
The Vatican News recently reported that three Ukrainian lawmakers and Mayor of Melitopol Ivan Fedorov, who were abducted by Russian forces but released after some negotiations, attended the Pope’s Easter Vigil service on Saturday, during which the pontiff prayed for each of them. “In this darkness that you are living, Mr. Mayor, parliamentarians, the thick darkness of war, of cruelty, we are all praying with you and for you this night,” the Pope lovingly assured them.
On the same occasion, the Pope also commended those European nations that have welcomed refugees from Ukraine. Pope Francis prayed and urged all nations to welcome other immigrants and refugees in need, “I see the faces of the orphaned children fleeing from the war. As we look at them, we cannot help but hear their cry of pain, along with that of all those other children who suffer throughout our world, those dying of hunger or lack of medical care, those who are victims of abuse and violence, and those denied the right to be born.”
Pope Francis read most of the Urbi et Orbi from the balcony while seated due to his knee injury. He only stood when he started speaking and for the Easter blessings. After the Mass, he used his open white popemobile to engage with the crowd that was flooding the streets and joyful on seeing the pope.