Pope denounces ongoing conflicts amid Covid pandemic

Pope Francis, in his traditional Easter Sunday address, denounced as “scandalous” how armed conflicts rage on despite the coronavirus pandemic causing severe social and economic suffering and swelling the ranks of the poor.

Pope Francis, in his Urbi et Orbi (Latin for “To the city and to the world”) address, softened joyful wishes for the Christian feast day along with reports of pain about the many armed conflicts in Africa, the Middle East, Latin America, Asia and Eastern Europe.

Describing vaccines as an “essential tool” in the fight against the pandemic, Francis called for a “spirit of global responsibility” as he encouraged nations to overcome “delays in vaccine distribution” and ensure shots reach the poorest nations .

“Everyone, especially the most vulnerable among us, needs help and has the right to access the necessary care,” the pope said.

At the beginning of his speech, he expressed outrage and lamented that there had been no lack of wars and conflicts during the world’s worst health crisis in a century.

“The pandemic is still spreading while the social and economic crisis remains severe, especially for the poor. Despite this – and this is scandalous – the armed conflicts are not over and military arsenals are being reinforced,” Francis said, sounding angry. “That’s today’s scandal.”

The pope prayed that public authorities would ensure that those in need of help had a “decent standard of living”. Unfortunately, the pandemic has dramatically increased the number of poor and the desperation of thousands of people.”

He lamented the plight of people affected by war and other conflicts, citing Haiti, one of the world’s poorest countries, which has been riddled with violent protests and political infighting, including a suspected coup d’etat. Francis urged Haitians “not to be overwhelmed by difficulties, but to look to the future with confidence and hope.”

Francis offered encouragement to young people in Myanmar who are “working to support democracy and make their voices heard peacefully”. Protesters in Myanmar took to the streets with painted eggs in a nod to Easter. Myanmar’s military has violently attempted to crush opponents of a February 1 coup that ousted a democratically elected government.

Francis thanked Lebanon and Jordan for hosting refugees from the war in Syria and prayed for peace to finally come to “millions living in inhumane conditions”. He also prayed for an end to the conflicts in Yemen and Libya.

QUOTE MORE CONFLICTS

Referring to the suffering of the people in Africa, he denounced “internal violence and international terrorism, especially in the Sahel and Nigeria”. Other troubled areas he mentioned were Ethiopia’s Tigray province and Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province, bloodied by days of fighting with rebels for control of a town.

Francis prayed for the safe return of prisoners from long conflicts in Europe, eastern Ukraine and Nagorno-Karabakh.

Earlier in the day, Francis celebrated Easter Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, where the faithful in the pews numbered barely 200, compared to the usual thousands, according to pandemic protocols.

Normally, Francis would deliver his Easter speech on world affairs from the basilica’s central balcony overlooking St. Peter’s Square. Instead, he read it indoors for the second consecutive Easter to discourage crowds from gathering.

“Dear brothers and sisters, this year too many Christians in different places have celebrated Easter under severe restrictions and at times without the opportunity to participate in liturgical celebrations,” said Pope Francis before bestowing a special apostolic blessing on believers worldwide.

“We pray that these restrictions, as well as all restrictions on freedom of religion and religion worldwide, will be lifted and everyone will be free to pray and worship God,” the pope said.