.- In his traditional Easter message "to the city (of Rome) and the world," Pope Benedict XVI prayed for peace in the Middle East and Africa, and for persecuted Christians around the world. He urged Catholics to "sing and walk, faithfully carrying out our task" of proclaiming Jesus' resurrection to the world.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Rome and across the world,
Easter morning brings us news that is ancient yet ever new:Christ is risen! The echo of this event, which issued forth from Jerusalemtwenty centuries ago, continues to resound in the Church, deep in whose heartlives the vibrant faith of Mary, Mother of Jesus, the faith of Mary Magdaleneand the other women who first discovered the empty tomb, and the faith of Peterand the other Apostles.
Right down to our own time – even in these days of advancedcommunications technology – the faith of Christians is based on that same news,on the testimony of those sisters and brothers who saw firstly the stone thathad been rolled away from the empty tomb and then the mysterious messengers whotestified that Jesus, the Crucified, was risen. And then Jesus himself, theLord and Master, living and tangible, appeared to Mary Magdalene, to the twodisciples on the road to Emmaus, and finally to all eleven, gathered in theUpper Room (cf. Mk 16:9-14).
The resurrection of Christ is not the fruit of speculationor mystical experience: it is an event which, while it surpasses history,nevertheless happens at a precise moment in history and leaves an indeliblemark upon it. The light which dazzled the guards keeping watch over Jesus’ tombhas traversed time and space. It is a different kind of light, a divine light,that has rent asunder the darkness of death and has brought to the world thesplendour of God, the splendour of Truth and Goodness.
Just as the sun’s rays in springtime cause the buds on thebranches of the trees to sprout and open up, so the radiance that streams forthfrom Christ’s resurrection gives strength and meaning to every human hope, toevery expectation, wish and plan. Hence the entire cosmos is rejoicing today,caught up in the springtime of humanity, which gives voice to creation’s silenthymn of praise. The Easter Alleluia, resounding in the Church as she makes herpilgrim way through the world, expresses the silent exultation of the universeand above all the longing of every human soul that is sincerely open to God,giving thanks to him for his infinite goodness, beauty and truth.
"In your resurrection, O Christ, let heaven and earthrejoice." To this summons to praise, which arises today from the heart ofthe Church, the "heavens" respond fully: the hosts of angels, saintsand blessed souls join with one voice in our exultant song. In heaven all is peaceand gladness. But alas, it is not so on earth! Here, in this world of ours, theEaster alleluia still contrasts with the cries and laments that arise from somany painful situations: deprivation, hunger, disease, war, violence. Yet itwas for this that Christ died and rose again! He died on account of sin,including ours today, he rose for the redemption of history, including our own.So my message today is intended for everyone, and, as a prophetic proclamation,it is intended especially for peoples and communities who are undergoing a timeof suffering, that the Risen Christ may open up for them the path of freedom,justice and peace.
May the Land which was the first to be flooded by the lightof the Risen One rejoice. May the splendour of Christ reach the peoples of theMiddle East, so that the light of peace and of human dignity may overcome thedarkness of division, hate and violence. In the current conflict in Libya, maydiplomacy and dialogue take the place of arms and may those who suffer as a resultof the conflict be given access to humanitarian aid. In the countries ofnorthern Africa and the Middle East, may all citizens, especially young people,work to promote the common good and to build a society where poverty isdefeated and every political choice is inspired by respect for the humanperson. May help come from all sides to those fleeing conflict and to refugeesfrom various African countries who have been obliged to leave all that is dearto them; may people of good will open their hearts to welcome them, so that thepressing needs of so many brothers and sisters will be met with a concertedresponse in a spirit of solidarity; and may our words of comfort andappreciation reach all those who make such generous efforts and offer an exemplarywitness in this regard.
May peaceful coexistence be restored among the peoples ofIvory Coast, where there is an urgent need to tread the path of reconciliationand pardon, in order to heal the deep wounds caused by the recent violence. MayJapan find consolation and hope as it faces the dramatic consequences of therecent earthquake, along with other countries that in recent months have beentested by natural disasters which have sown pain and anguish.
May heaven and earth rejoice at the witness of those whosuffer opposition and even persecution for their faith in Jesus Christ. May theproclamation of his victorious resurrection deepen their courage and trust.
Dear brothers and sisters! The risen Christ is journeyingahead of us towards the new heavens and the new earth (cf. Rev 21:1), in whichwe shall all finally live as one family, as sons of the same Father. He is withus until the end of time. Let us walk behind him, in this wounded world,singing Alleluia. In our hearts there is joy and sorrow, on our faces there aresmiles and tears. Such is our earthly reality. But Christ is risen, he is aliveand he walks with us. For this reason we sing and we walk, faithfully carryingout our task in this world with our gaze fixed on heaven.