Pope expresses ‘deep concern’ over turmoil in Israel-held territory

VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis noted his “deep concern” over a flare-up in tensions between Israel and Palestinians, delivering an Easter Mass in which he denounced the barriers to peace in the world.

He said the renewed violence “threatens the desired climate of trust and mutual respect needed to resume dialogue”, addressing a crowd of some 100,000 gathered in Saint Peter’s Square.

The Argentinian pontiff, a week after leaving hospital, also cited a string of “stumbling blocks” to peace in the world during his traditional Easter message, making special mention of the war in Ukraine.

“Help the beloved Ukrainian people on their journey towards peace, and shed the light of Easter upon the people of Russia,” he said.

“Comfort the wounded and all those who have lost loved ones because of the war, and grant that prisoners may return safe and sound to their families.” He drew attention to conflicts around the world, from Syria to the Democratic Republic of Congo, and offered prayers for victims of the earthquake in Turkiye and Syria.

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This week has seen a surge in violence and unrest between Israel and Palestinians at the same time as the Ramazan, Passover and Easter have coincided.

The pope called for a resumption in dialogue to ensure peace “in the Holy City (of Jerusalem) and in the entire region”.

The 86-year-old pope has returned to his duties after a recent stay in hospital following a bout of bronchitis.

On Saturday evening, he presided over the Vigil mass in Saint Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican, a two-and-a-half-hour ceremony performed before 8,000 people.

On Friday evening however, he stayed away from the Good Friday “Way of the Cross” service as a precaution because of the intense cold, the Vatican said.

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