Pope Francis calls for end to ‘carnage’ in Syria in Easter message

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Pope Francis has condemned the “carnage” in Syria and called for political leaders to help stop the “apparently endless war”.

The 81 year-old leader of the Catholic Church also pleaded for reconciliation in the Holy Land as part of his Easter message, two days after the deaths of at least 15 Palestinians during protests in Gaza.

His call for world peace, delivered from the Vatican balcony to an estimated 80,000 people packed into St Peter’s Square, started with Syria before moving on to the Middle East, Yemen, South Sudan, Korea, Ukraine and Venezuela.

“Today we implore fruits of peace upon the entire world, beginning with the beloved and long-suffering land of Syria, whose people are worn down by an apparently endless war,” the Pope said.

The pontiff also demanded that aid be delivered to the war-torn country’s needy, who have faced extreme hardship amid Syria’s civil war – a conflict that also involves troops from a number of nations including the US, UK, Iran, Russia and Turkey. Pope Francis also called for “fitting conditions for the returned and the displaced”.

“This Easter, may the light of the risen Christ illumine the consciences of all political and military leaders, so that a swift end may be brought to the carnage in course, that humanitarian law may be respected and that provisions be made to facilitate access to the aid so urgently needed by our brothers and sisters, while also ensuring fitting conditions for the return of the displaced,” Pope Francis said.

“We beseech fruits of reconciliation for the Holy Land, also experiencing in these days the wounds of ongoing conflict that do not spare the defenceless, for Yemen and for the entire Middle East, so that dialogue and mutual respect may prevail over division and violence,” he added.

Pope Francis also appeared to call on North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and US President Donald Trump to act with “wisdom and discernment”.

“We implore fruits of dialogue for the Korean peninsula, that the discussions underway may advance harmony and peace within the region,” he said.

“May those who are directly responsible act with wisdom and discernment to promote the good of the Korean people and to build relationships of trust within the international community.”

After referring to the humanitarian needs of the people of Ukraine, he urged Venezuela to “find a just, peaceful and humane way to surmount quickly the political and humanitarian crises that grip it”.

The pontiff said that the resurrection of Jesus gave hope in a world “marked by so many acts of injustice” during its history.

He claimed migrants and refugees were “so often rejected by today’s culture of waste”, and mentioned victims of the drug trade, human trafficking and modern slavery.

Pope Francis ended his “Urbi et Orbi” message “to the city and the world” by wishing a “happy Easter to all”.

The audience in St Peter’s Square had to pass metal detector checks and bag searches before they could take part in the Easter Sunday Mass.