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Pope's Easter message calls for peace

world Updated: Mar 23, 2008 20:55 IST
Philip Pullella

Pope Benedict called in his Easter message on Sunday for an end to injustice, hatred and violence around the world, including in Tibet, Iraq and Darfur.

The pope, who turns 81 next month, celebrated an Easter Mass for tens of thousands of people in driving rain in St Peter's Square as Christians around the world commemorated Christ's resurrection.

The Sunday mass came hours after an Easter vigil service on Saturday night where, in a surprise move, the pope baptized Muslim-born convert Magdi Allam, 55, an outspoken journalist and fierce critic of Islamic extremism.

The wind and rain that has whipped most of Europe did not spare Rome as the German pontiff, wearing white and gold vestments, said Mass while the crowd huddled under umbrellas.

The pope himself was sheltered by a canopy but cardinals, diplomats and altar boys were drenched and thunderclaps punctuated the service.

In his twice-yearly "Urbi et Orbi" (to the city and the world) message delivered after the Mass, the pope decried "the many wounds that continue to disfigure humanity in our own day".

"These are the scourges of humanity, open and festering in every corner of the planet, although they are often ignored and sometimes deliberately concealed; wounds that torture the souls and bodies of countless of our brothers and sisters," he said.

He called for "an active commitment to justice ... in areas bloodied by conflict and wherever the dignity of the human person continues to be scorned and trampled".