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Easter triumphs over death, injustice, deprivation and slavery pope proclaims

VATICAN CITY (CNS): Easter morning dawned bright and sunny at the Vatican, highlighting the thousands of flowers, trees and bushes donated by flower growers in the Netherlands.
Before delivering his Urbi et Orbi (To the city and the world) blessing on April 1, Pope Francis prayed made special mention of the ongoing carnage in Syria as well as the recent violence which saw 15 Palestinians killed during protests along Gaza’s border with Israel on March 30.
The pope prayed for “fruits of reconciliation for the Holy Land, also experiencing in these days the wounds of ongoing conflict that do not spare the defenseless.” 
He also prayed for Yemen and the entire Middle East, “so that dialogue and mutual respect may prevail over division and violence.”
Remembering Christians in the Middle East who have suffered for their faith, the pope prayed that “our brothers and sisters in Christ, who not infrequently put up with injustices and persecution, (might) be radiant witnesses of the risen Lord and of the victory of good over evil.”
The pope also remembered “the beloved and long-suffering land of Syria, whose people are worn down by an apparently endless war.”
He prayed, “This Easter, may the light of the risen Christ illuminate 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.”
Speaking from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica, Pope Francis focused on how Jesus foretold his death and resurrection using the allegorical story of the grain of wheat, which bears no fruit unless it is put into the ground.
“This is precisely what happened: Jesus, the grain of wheat sowed by God in the furrows of the earth, died, killed by the sin of the world,” the pope said, adding, “He remained two days in the tomb; but his death contained God’s love in all its power, released and made manifest on the third day, the day we celebrate today: the Easter of Christ the Lord.”
In a brief homily during the morning Mass celebrated earlier in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis spoke of how God’s actions throughout history to save his people have been acts that surprised them, touched their hearts and prompted them to rush to share the news with others. 
“The women who had gone to anoint the Lord’s body found themselves before a surprise” when they reached the empty tomb, he said. “God’s announcements are always a surprise, because our God is a God of surprises.”
The pope said, “Those people left what they were doing; housewives left their potatoes in the pan—they would find them burned later—but what is important is to go, run to see the surprise” that was announced, Pope Francis said.
On Easter, he said, Christians should ask themselves if they have hearts open to being surprised by God and if they feel a need to rush to share with others the good news of God’s saving acts.
After the Mass, Pope Francis climbed into the pope mobile for a quick trip around St. Peter’s Square then went up to the balcony to give his Urbi et Orbi.
Addressing the tens of thousands of people gathered in St. Peter’s Square, the pope stressed that Jesus’ power over death continues today and can bring peace to the world’s most serious situations of conflict, including in Syria, the Holy Land, Yemen, Congo, South Sudan, Ukraine, the Korean peninsula and Venezuela.
“We Christians believe and know that Christ’s resurrection is the true hope of the world, the hope that does not disappoint,” the pope said. 
“It is the power of the grain of wheat, the power of that love which humbles itself and gives itself to the very end, and thus truly renews the world,” he said.
In all the “furrows of our history, marked by so many acts of injustice and violence,” the pope  said, the power of the Resurrection and the acts it inspires in believers “bears fruits of hope and dignity where there are deprivation and exclusion, hunger and unemployment, where there are migrants and refugees—so often rejected by today’s culture of waste—and victims of the drug trade, human trafficking and contemporary forms of slavery.”
Pope Francis included special prayers for “those children who, as a result of wars and hunger, grow up without hope, lacking education and health care; and to those elderly persons who are cast off by a selfish culture that ostracizes those who are not ‘productive’.”
Pope Francis said that Easter makes it clear that in the life of Jesus, but also in the lives of modern men and women, “death, solitude and fear” do not have the last word.
“The words heard by the women at the tomb are also addressed to us: ‘Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen!’” the pope said.
Pope Francis concluded by greeting those who had come from all over the world to celebrate in Rome, as well as those watching through various media outlets.
He prayed for families, especially the elderly who are “the precious memory of society” and the young, “the future of the Church and the humanity.”
Pope Francis then ended with his customary, “Please do not forget to pray for me,” adding, “Enjoy your lunch.”

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