VATICAN CITY • Pope Francis yesterday called for an end to "carnage" in Syria and "reconciliation" in the Middle East in his traditional Easter message.
"Today we implore fruits of peace upon the entire world, beginning with the beloved and long-suffering land of Syria," the pontiff said in the Urbi et Orbi (To the City and the World) address.
Appealing to the "consciences of all political and military leaders," Francis urged "that a swift end may be brought to the carnage" in Syria as tens of thousands of pilgrims listened in St Peter's Square and millions watched the speech broadcast live around the world.
The head of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics asked 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" to Syria.
As he spoke, a final deal was reportedly reached for fighters and civilians to leave the last opposition-held pocket of eastern Ghouta.
The 81-year-old Francis said the Holy Land was "also experiencing... the wounds of ongoing conflict that do not spare the defenceless", singling out the conflict in Yemen where some 10,000 people have died since March 2015.
Praying for the "fruits of peace upon the entire world", Francis then called for the "fruits of dialogue for the Korean peninsula", and that the "discussions under way may advance peace and harmony within the region." The pontiff added: "May those who are directly responsible act with wisdom and discernment to promote the good of the Korean people and to build relationships of trust within the international community."
Earlier yesterday, the pope celebrated Easter mass in the flower-bedecked square, which was under tight security, with tourists and clergy alike passing through metal detectors.