Pope calls for Palestinian state

Leads Easter Mass in St. Peter's Square; also presses for fair deal with Iran and cooperation against global terror.

pope benedict XVI 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
pope benedict XVI 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
Pope Benedict XVI, celebrating his first Easter as pontiff, prayed Sunday for peace to prevail over relentless violence in Iraq, for a negotiated, "honorable," solution to the Iran nuclear crisis and for dialogue to overcome obstacles between Israel and the Palestinians. Looking tired, Benedict led nearly 100,000 pilgrims, tourists and Romans in Mass in St. Peter's Square. Benedict also celebrated his 79th birthday, which coincided with Easter. "Today, even in this modern age marked by anxiety and uncertainty, we live the event of the resurrection, which changed the face of our life and changed the history of humanity," Benedict said in the traditional "Urbi et Orbi" message - Latin for "to the city and to the world," delivered from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica immediately after the Mass to the cheers and applause of the crowd. The pontiff reviewed conflicts around the globe. "In Iraq, may peace finally prevail over the tragic violence that continues mercilessly to claim victims," Benedict said. "I also pray sincerely that those caught up in the conflict in the Holy Land may find peace, and I invite all to patient and persevering dialogue so as to remove both ancient and new obstacles," the pontiff said. "May the international community, which reaffirms Israel's just right to exist in peace, assist the Palestinian people to overcome the precarious conditions in which they live and to build their future, moving toward the constitution of a state which is truly their own," Benedict said. In another part of his speech, Benedict appeared to be referring to concerns that Iran is developing a nuclear arsenal. "Concerning the international crises linked to nuclear power, may an honorable solution be found for all parties through serious and honest negotiations," Benedict said, although he did not name any countries. Benedict called on leaders of nations and of international organizations to work for peaceful coexistence among races, cultures and religions "to remove the threat of terrorism." The pope's concerns extended to the crisis in Sudan's Darfur region and conflicts elsewhere in Africa. He said that in Latin America, better living conditions were needed for millions of people and democratic institutions needed to be "consolidated in a spirit of harmony and effective solidarity." As Mass began, a brisk breeze ruffled the pope's gold-colored vestments and the crimson feathers atop the helmets of Swiss Guards as he strode up the center to the square to take his place at a canopied altar on the steps of St. Peter's Basilica. When the faithful read out prayers during the Mass, a woman, speaking in French, prayed for the pope. She offered a birthday wish and noted that it was his first Easter as pontiff as she prayed that Benedict receive peace and the comfort of "serene" days. Benedict wished the faithful a joyous holiday in 62 languages, and included a thank you to the Netherlands for the flowers decorating the square. He concluded with his blessing. His wishes in Italian referred to Italy's political stalemate, in which Premier Silvio Berlusconi has been refusing to concede defeat in April 9-10 voting to his rival Romano Prodi. "In the particular moment that Italy has been living through in these months, may the risen Lord bring serenity to the national community and strengthen those who work to serve it the strong desire to pursue aims of harmony and authentic development for the good of all," Benedict said. Benedict's predecessor, John Paul II, died six days after last Easter.