Pope calls for peace in Ukraine in Easter Mass message after hospital stay

After the Pope left hospital in time for his Easter Mass, followers will have been relieved to hear him speak in St. Peter's Square, ITV News' Callum Watkinson reports

Pope Francis opened a celebration of Mass on Easter Sunday joined by dozens of prelates and tens of thousands of pilgrims and tourists in St. Peter’s Square.

Some 45,000 people had gathered by the start of the mid-morning Mass, according to Vatican security services.

Francis prayed for the people of Ukraine in his Easter message, as he called for peace in the world's troubled places.

He said he hoped the reresection of Christ would be “the light that illuminates the darkness and the gloom in which, all too often, our world finds itself enveloped”.

Pontiff added: “Help the beloved Ukrainian people on their journey toward peace and shed the light of Easter upon the people of Russia.

Pope Francis is helped in St. Peter's Square at The Vatican where he will celebrate the Easter Sunday mass. Credit: AP

“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.”

At the beginning of the Easter ceremony, inspired by the core Christian belief that Jesus rose from the dead after his crucifixion, Francis sprinkled holy water and sounded somewhat tired as he recited ritual words in Latin.

A canopy on the edge of steps on the square sheltered the pontiff, who was back in the public eye 12 hours after a 2.25-hour long Easter vigil ceremony in St. Peter’s Basilica the night before.

Still recovering from bronchitis, the 86-year-old skipped the traditional Good Friday procession at Rome’s Colosseum due to unseasonably cold nighttime temperatures.

Pope Francis sits on the altar in St. Peter's Square at The Vatican. Credit: AP

At the end of the Mass, Francis was set to deliver a speech that pontiffs give on Christmas and Easter.

Known by its Latin name, “Urbi et Orbi,” which means to the city and to the world, the message is a frequently an occasion to decry wars and injustices around the globe, including religious persecution.

Francis has rebounded following a three-day stay last week at a Rome hospital where he was administered antibiotics intravenously for bronchitis. He was discharged on April 1.

Except for forgoing the Colosseum Way of the Cross torch-lit procession, he has stuck to a heavy schedule of Holy Week public appearances.

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