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Pope makes Easter plea for world peace

Pope Francis held a disabled child in his arms after celebrating Easter Mass in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican. An estimated 250,000 people were in the square.

Alessandro Dimeo/European Pressphoto Agency

Pope Francis held a disabled child in his arms after celebrating Easter Mass in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican. An estimated 250,000 people were in the square.

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis marked Christianity’s most joyous day with a passionate plea for world peace, celebrating his first Easter as pontiff in the enthusiastic company of an estimated 250,000 people who overflowed from St. Peter’s Square.

With eloquent words in his Easter message, Francis lamented enduring conflicts in the Middle East, on the Korean peninsula, and elsewhere, and called for more efforts to help the world’s neediest people.

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He illustrated the personal, down-to-earth caring he brings as a pastor to this new papacy — cradling a disabled child held out to him in the crowd and delightedly accepting a surprise gift of an Argentine soccer jersey thrust at him.

After Mass in flower-bedecked St. Peter’s Square, the pope stepped aboard an open-topped vehicle for a spin through pathways in the joyous crowd.

Francis promoted the causes of peace and social justice in the Easter speech he delivered from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica, the same vantage point above the square where he was introduced to the world as the first Latin American pontiff on March 13.

“The power of the Resurrection . . . must be accomplished in every age, in our concrete existence, in our everyday lives,’’ the pope said.

He said he was especially remembering the weakest and the neediest, and lamented that the world is ‘‘still divided by greed looking for easy gain.’’

Francis prayed that Jesus would inspire people to ‘‘change hatred into love, vengeance into forgiveness, war into peace.’’

As popes before him have, he urged Israelis and Palestinians to resume peace talks and end the long conflict.

And, in reflecting on the two-year-old Syrian crisis, Francis asked, ‘‘How much suffering must there still be before a political solution will be found?” The pope also expressed desire for reconciliation on the Korean peninsula, and decried warfare and terrorism in Africa.

The new pope so far has declined to move into the former apartment of his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, in the Apostolic Palace. He is still in the Vatican hotel, where he stayed during the conclave that selected him.

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