| Iraqi Christians receive holy communion during Easter mass at the Hallelujah church in Baghdad. (AFP)
Vatican City, April 20 (Reuters): Pope John Paul, in his Easter message today, made a ringing call for peace around the world and said Iraqis had to take charge of the rebuilding of their country with the help of the international community.
The pope, marking the 25th Easter season of his pontificate, also called for an end to the “chain of hatred” threatening the human family at the start of a new millennium “tragically marred by acts of violence and conflict”. The Vatican’s English translation of his speech used the phrase “chain of hatred and terrorism” but all other translations did not and the pope did not use the word terrorism when he spoke in Italian.
He said he was profoundly grieved by unending violence in the Holy Land and urged the world to remember forgotten wars. In the message beamed live to hundreds of millions of people in 54 countries, he wished the world a happy and peaceful Easter in 62 languages, including Arabic, Hebrew and some languages spoken in countries that are in conflict in Africa and Asia.
The 82-year-old pope, speaking from a St Peter’s Square bedecked with tens of thousands of flowers, appeared in overall good condition although somewhat tired. His voice was a bit hoarse after a hectic seven days of Holy Week activities. “Peace in Iraq!,” he said in his twice-yearly “Urbi et Orbi” (to the city and the world) message after celebrating an Easter Sunday mass for worshippers who stood under umbrellas in a steady rain.
The crowd roared with approval and applauded when he called for peace, prompting him to raise his voice energetically to repeat several phrases with emphasis. “With the support of the international community, may the Iraqi people become protagonists of the collective rebuilding of their country,” he said.
The pope, who wore white and gold coloured vestments at Sunday’s ceremony, led a vigorous anti-war campaign ahead of the US-led attack to oust Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
In Britain, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, spiritual head of the world’s 70 million Anglicans, warned against taking extreme views for or against the war on Iraq.
“Every choice is flawed,” Williams said in his first Easter Sunday address as Archbishop, while other British Christian leaders called on the world community to secure the promised better future for Iraqis.
Since Saddam’s rule was toppled, the Vatican has urged a quick end to the conflict and has offered to help co-ordinate humanitarian assistance through its embassy and dioceses.
The pope again spoke of his fears that both fresh and protracted conflicts in West Asia could spark what he called “a tragic clash between cultures and religions.”
Forgiveness, understanding, patience and peace-building were the watchwords if people really wanted to inaugurate what he called a “new era of justice and peace.”
He called for “peace in other parts of the world, where forgotten wars and protracted hostilities are causing deaths and injuries amid silence and neglect on the part of considerable sectors of public opinion.”
He mentioned conflicts in Africa, Asia, the Caucasus and Latin America.