Pope Francis

Pope Francis attacks greedy capitalists and prays for peace in Easter address

Francis also urges peace in global trouble spots after about 250,000 gather at St Peter's Square

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 31 March, 2013, 6:19pm
UPDATED : Monday, 01 April, 2013, 10:31am

Pope Francis gave an unexpected twist to the annual pontifical appeal for peace yesterday when he used it to denounce "greed looking for easy gain".

The pope - who has sought to make himself the tribune of the poor, disabled and disadvantaged - appeared to put uncaring capitalism in the same category as the armed conflicts his predecessors have traditionally deplored on Easter Day.

He said he wanted his Easter message of hope and resurrection "to go out to every house and every family, especially where the suffering is greatest, in hospitals [and] in prisons".

Francis's denunciation of greed came after he moved among the crowd in St Peter's Square in the popemobile.

He kissed babies and children, held a severely disabled young man in his arms and accepted the gift of a football shirt of his favourite team, Argentina's San Lorenzo "Saints".

His longest stop was for a disabled child who was lifted into the popemobile and whom he hugged and kissed repeatedly.

Pope Francis prayed for a "reconciliation" on the Korean Peninsula and "political solution" in Syria.

"How much blood has been shed! And how much suffering must there still be before a political solution to the crisis will be found?" he said.

"On the Korean Peninsula, may disagreements be overcome and a renewed spirit of reconciliation grow," he said, a day after North Korea declared it was in a "state of war" with the South.

According to the Vatican's estimate, some 250,000 people crammed into the square and the broad avenue that stretches away from the Vatican to the river Tiber for the pope's first Easter mass.

By the time Francis climbed aboard the open and unprotected Mercedes pontiff-carrier, the square in front of Michelangelo's basilica was a sea of colour.

In addition to the spring flowers on either side of the shallow steps down which the popemobile bumped into the square, there were the flags of countries from Albania to Zambia.

The light blue, white and gold of Argentina's flag was well represented and the pope's face lit up in recognition every time he identified a group of his compatriots in the jubilant crowd of tourists, pilgrims and Romans.

In the final event of the gruelling timetable that Easter sets for the leaders of the Roman Catholic church, the 76-year-old Francis's voice occasionally sounded weak. But he was visibly energised by his tour of the square and the delivery of his address was forceful and impassioned.

In Jerusalem, Catholics worshipped in the church of the Holy Sepulchre, built on the hill where tradition holds Jesus Christ was crucified. Israel's Tourism Ministry said it expected some 150,000 visitors during holy week and the Jewish festival of Passover, which coincide this year.

The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem invited Pope Francis and the world's Christians to visit the Holy City, which he described as the birthplace of "everything Christian".

In Indonesia, more than 200 Christians held an Easter service in front of the presidential palace, demanding the government stop church closures in the world's most-populous Muslim country.

They sang hymns and recited prayers in a two-hour service that also served as a protest against the lack of protection for religious minorities.

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse, Associated Press