Pope Francis called for peace “above all” in Syria and Iraq in his Easter Sunday message at the Vatican, describing the violence associated with the Islamic State group and other extremist organizations there an “immense humanitarian tragedy.” The pontiff also evinced hope the peace process between Israeli and Palestinians would be relaunched, as he mentioned in similar contexts multiple other conflicts in Africa, the Middle East and Ukraine.
Francis also referred to the framework agreement for a deal on Iran’s nuclear program reached in Switzerland Thursday between Tehran and the so-called P5+1 group countries led by the U.S. He expressed optimism the framework agreement “may be a definitive step toward a more secure and fraternal world.”
“We ask for peace, above all, for beloved Syria and Iraq, that the roar of arms may cease and that peaceful relations may be restored among the various groups which make up those beloved countries,” the Roman Catholic leader said. “May the international community not stand by before the immense humanitarian tragedy unfolding in these countries and the drama of the numerous refugees.”
Francis called for an end of “suffering and division” between Israelis and Palestinians and prayed for peace “for all the peoples of the Holy Land.” He also expressed “hope for the growth of a common desire for peace” in the failed Gulf state of Yemen, where Houthi rebels seized control of the government in a coup.
With respect to Libya, where the Islamic State group, formerly known as either ISIL or ISIS, beheaded 21 Egyptian Christians in February, the pope implored the combatants there to end “the present absurd bloodshed and all barbarous acts of violence.”
Francis also asked for the “gift of peace for Nigeria, South Sudan, and for the various areas of Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo” where there is conflict. He also prayed “for those who lost their lives, for all who have been kidnapped, and for those forced to abandon their homes and their dear ones.” Among them were the 147 people killed during the Garissa University College attack in Kenya Thursday: Many of the dead were Christians.
In his Easter Sunday message, the pope also prayed for God to “bring light to beloved Ukraine,” where pro-Russia separatists have been fighting with the Ukrainian military for more than a year. About 6,000 people have died in the conflict as of March, according to the United Nations.