At Easter mass, pope calls for ‘free access’ to Jerusalem holy sites

‘Let us ask for peace upon Jerusalem and peace upon all those who love her,’ Pope Francis tells gathered pilgrims at Vatican City

Pope Francis celebrates the Easter mass on April 17, 2022 at St. Peter's square in The Vatican. (Tiziana Fabi/AFP)
Pope Francis celebrates the Easter mass on April 17, 2022 at St. Peter's square in The Vatican. (Tiziana Fabi/AFP)

VATICAN CITY, Holy See — Pope Francis on Sunday called for free access to the holy sites in Jerusalem as he delivered his annual Easter address amid simmering violence between Israelis and Palestinians in the Holy City.

“May there be peace for the Middle East, racked by years of conflict and division. On this glorious day, let us ask for peace upon Jerusalem and peace upon all those who love her, Christians, Jews and Muslims alike. May Israelis, Palestinians and all who dwell in the Holy City, together with the pilgrims, experience the beauty of peace, dwell in fraternity and enjoy free access to the Holy Places in mutual respect for the rights of each,” he said.

Clashes between Palestinian rioters and Israeli police wounded 10 protesters on Sunday morning in and around Jerusalem’s flashpoint Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, the site of major clashes two days earlier, police said. Nine rioters were arrested.

The latest tensions in Jerusalem come as all three Abrahamic faiths mark major festivals: Jewish Passover, Christian Easter and the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

During his address, the pope also called on world leaders to hear calls for peace during an “Easter of war,” including conflict-ravaged Ukraine.

“May there be peace for war-torn Ukraine, so sorely tried by the violence and destruction of the cruel and senseless war into which it was dragged,” the pontiff said during his traditional Easter Sunday Urbi et Orbi address on St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican.

“Our eyes, too, are incredulous on this Easter of war,” he said. “May the leaders of nations hear people’s plea for peace.”

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