Pope Francis, Vatican.jpg
Photograph: EPA/ANGELO CARCONI

Pope Francis recalled the plight of victims of terrorism and migrants and called for an end to global conflicts, in his traditional Easter day message and blessing, the Urbi et Orbi (to the city and to the world).

Easter, celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ after his crucifixion, is considered the most important festival in the Christian calendar, offering a message of hope against all adversities.

"Jesus Christ is risen! Love has triumphed over hatred, life has conquered death, light has dispelled the darkness," Francis wrote on Twitter before leading an open-air Mass in St Peter's Square attended by large crowds, under sunny skies.

May Jesus "draw us closer on this Easter feast to the victims of terrorism, that blind and brutal form of violence which continues to shed blood in different parts of the world," Francis said after the service.

Delivering the Urbi et Orbi from the central balcony of St Peter's Basilica, after touring the square in his popemobile, Francis mentioned recent terrorist strikes in Belgium, Turkey, Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, Ivory Coast and Iraq.

The 79-year-old pontiff urged Catholics "not to forget those men and women seeking a better future, an ever more numerous throng of migrants and refugees – including many children – fleeing from war, hunger, poverty and social injustice."

Lamenting that the earth "is so often mistreated and greedily exploited," Francis said: "I think especially of those areas affected by climate change, which not infrequently causes drought or violent flooding, which then lead to food crises."

The leader of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics also appealed for global peace, mentioning war-torn or unstable lands such as Syria, Iraq, Ukraine, Yemen, Israel and the Palestinian Territories, South Sudan, Burundi, Mozambique and Venezuela.

Amid heightened security concerns around Europe following Tuesday's Islamist attacks in Brussels, police surveillance for the Easter celebrations was stepped up. The tens of thousands who flocked to St Peter's Square were screened using metal detectors.

Several solemn rituals punctuated the run-up to Easter Sunday, including Holy Thursday's foot-washing ceremony, which Pope Francis staged this year in a shelter for asylum seekers in the outskirts of Rome.

On Friday, the pontiff led the Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) procession at the Colosseum, while his charity department distributed sleeping bags to Rome's homeless people. On the eve of Easter, Francis celebrated an evening Mass in St Peter's Basilica.

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