In Easter speech, Pope calls wars during pandemic ‘scandalous’

Pope Francis denounced military arsenals being strengthened as Covid-19 causes social and economic suffering

epa09115127 Pope Francis leads the Easter Sunday Mass St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican, 04 April 2021. Easter Sunday is the one of the highest religious holidays observed by Christians all over the world, commemorating the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  EPA/FILIPPO MONTEFORTE / POOL
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In his traditional Easter address on Sunday, Pope Francis denounced as "scandalous" how warfare continues to rage and military arsenals are being strengthened as the coronavirus pandemic causes suffering around the world.

The Pope tempered his Urbi et Orbi address –  Latin for To the City and to the World – to express wishes of joy on the Christian feast day, along with accounts of pain from the globe's conflicts and other violence in Africa, the Middle East, Asia and eastern Europe.

He also appealed anew to the international community to overcome delays in distributing Covid-19 vaccines and ensure supplies reach the poorest countries.

“Everyone, especially the most vulnerable among us, requires assistance and has the right to have access to necessary care,” the pontiff said.

Describing vaccines as an "essential tool" in the pandemic battle, Pope Francis called for a “spirit of global responsibility” as he encouraged nations to overcome “delays in the distribution of vaccines and to facilitate their distribution, especially in the poorest countries”.

But he said there had been no shortage of warfare, despite Covid-19.

“The pandemic is still spreading, while the social and economic crisis remains severe, especially for the poor.

"Nevertheless – and this is scandalous – armed conflicts have not ended, and military arsenals are being strengthened,” Pope Francis said.

“This is today’s scandal.”

He delivered the speech about an hour after celebrating Easter Mass in St Peter’s Basilica with barely 200 faithful in the pews, in keeping with pandemic protocols.

Normally, the address about world affairs is delivered from the central balcony of the basilica overlooking St Peter’s Square.

Instead, for the second consecutive Easter, it was read indoors to discourage crowds from gathering.

“Dear brothers and sisters, once again this year, in various places, many Christians have celebrated Easter under severe restrictions and, at times, without being able to attend liturgical celebrations,” the Pope said, before offering a special Apostolic blessing to faithful worldwide.

"We pray that those restrictions, as well as all restrictions on freedom of worship and religion worldwide, may be lifted and everyone be allowed to pray and praise God freely," Pope Francis said.

He did not cite any specific country or location that imposed limits on worship during the pandemic or generally restricted freedom to practise religion.