ROME— Pope Francis on Sunday prayed for those experiencing hardship because of the pandemic, calling for more government support for those suffering economically and better distribution of vaccines.
The pope’s Easter message, traditionally a survey of conflicts and humanitarian crises around the globe, focused this time on the international health emergency now more than a year old, as he highlighted its impact on people’s physical, emotional and spiritual well-being.
“I urge the entire international community, in a spirit of global responsibility, to commit to overcoming delays in the distribution of vaccines and to facilitate their distribution, especially in the poorest countries,” he said.
He also called for more public assistance to “those who have lost their jobs or experience serious economic difficulties and lack adequate social protection.”
The pope lamented the pain that Covid-19 has inflicted on people unable to gather together, praying for “all those young people forced to go long periods without attending school or university, or spending time with their friends.”
“Experiencing real human relationships, not just virtual relationships, is something that everyone needs, especially at an age when a person’s character and personality is being formed,” he said.
The pope noted limitations and outright prohibitions on religious worship in various countries and prayed that “all restrictions on freedom of worship and religion world-wide may be lifted and everyone be allowed to pray and praise God freely.”
He delivered his remarks from inside St. Peter’s Basilica, after celebrating Mass with a congregation of only about 200 people, including two dozen cardinals. The pope ordinarily reads his Easter message from a loggia overlooking St. Peter’s Square, but Italy is currently under a strict lockdown that rules out large gatherings.
Aside from the pandemic, the pope devoted a large portion of his remarks to the Middle East, mentioning his visit last month to Iraq, where he advocated for the country’s beleaguered Christian minority. He also reiterated his longstanding calls for an end to civil war in Syria, “where millions of people are presently living in inhumane conditions,” and for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Pope Francis noted that Sunday had been designated by the United Nations as a day of awareness against anti-personnel land mines, which he called “insidious and horrible devices that kill or maim many innocent people each year…How much better our world would be without these instruments of death!”
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