Celebrating Easter Sunday, Christianity's most joyous and hopeful day, Pope Francis prayed for peace in Ukraine and Syria and for an end to the terrorist attacks in Nigeria that have targeted so many Christians. More than 150,000 tourists—Romans and pilgrims, young and old—had turned out for the Mass he celebrated at an altar set up under a canopy on the steps of St. Peter's Basilica. So many came that they overflowed the huge square, which was bedecked with row after row of potted daffodils, sprays of blue hyacinths, and bunches of white roses.
Francis noted that this year the Catholic church's celebration of Easter coincided with that of Orthodox churches, which have many followers in Ukraine. Invoking God, he said, "We ask you to enlighten and inspire the initiatives that promote peace in Ukraine, so that all those involved will make every effort to prevent violence." Francis' Easter message also stressed that people pay attention to the needy close to home. Reflecting the priorities of his papacy, he said the "good news" of Easter's joy and hope means "leaving ourselves behind and encountering others, being close to those crushed by life's troubles, sharing with the needy, standing at the side of the sick, elderly, and the outcast." (Read more Pope Francis stories.)