Pope Francis celebrated Mass on Easter Sunday at the Vatican Basilica with a small number of the faithful present and after he urged nations to hasten distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, particularly to the world's poor.
After saying Mass, Francis read traditional peace appeal and review of the world in his "Urbi et Orbi" (to the city and the world) message in which he called armed conflict and military spending during a pandemic "scandalous" Reuters news agency reported.
Due to the coronavirus this was second straight year with only small number of people attending Easter papal services at a secondary St. Peter's Basilica altar, rather than crowds thronging the church or the square outside, digital media relaying the message.
SCANDALOUS ARMED CONFLICTS
"The pandemic is still spreading, while the social and economic crisis remains severe, especially for the poor. Nonetheless – and this is scandalous – armed conflicts have not ended and military arsenals are being strengthened," said the Pope.
Francis, who would normally have given the address to up to 100,000 people in St. Peter's Square, spoke to fewer than 200 in the church while the message was broadcast to tens of millions around the world, Philip Pullella reported for Reuters.
Saturday night's service began two hours earlier so people could get home before Rome's 10 p.m. curfew, United Press International reported.
The square was empty except for a few police officers enforcing a strict three-day national lockdown as Christians celebrated one of their most important of feasts.
Still, the Pope was joined by countless Catholics around the world via digital media across various social media platforms, Vatican News Devin Watkins reported.
At one point, nearly 9,000 were simultaneously celebrating Jesus' Resurrection with the Pope on Vatican News' English-language Facebook page alone.
More than 170 broadcast networks and media outlets picked up the Easter broadcasts, in a much wider coverage due to live-streaming.
In place of a sermon, Francis led with silent prayers following the proclamation of the Gospel of John (20:1-9), chanted in both Latin and Greek.
The Vatican this year also added a service in sign language, thanks to the "No One Left Out" project launched by the Vatican's Dicastery for Communication.
The Pope referred to conflicts around the world in his message.
"May the efforts to resolve conflicts peacefully continue, in respect for human rights and the sacredness of life, through fraternal and constructive dialogue in a spirit of reconciliation and true solidarity," he said.
"May the power of the risen Lord sustain the peoples of Africa who see their future compromised by internal violence and international terrorism, especially in the Sahel and Nigeria, as well as in Tigray and the Cabo Delgado region."
On Myanmar, he said, "I express my closeness to young people throughout the world and, in these days, especially to the young people of Myanmar committed to supporting democracy and making their voices heard peacefully, in the knowledge that hatred can be dispelled only by love."
Francis aslo spoke about Iraq, following his visit in March. He said, "I pray that it may continue along the path of peace and thus fulfil God's dream for a human family hospitable and welcoming to all his children."
Pope Francis also referred to how the pandemic has resticted people coming togtether to pray.
"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," said Francis.
"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."