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Pope Francis delivers plea for peace in Easter Sunday mass
[ROME]Under tight security in St. Peter's Square in Rome, tens of thousands of worshippers from around the word thronged to a Mass celebrated by Pope Francis on Easter Sunday.
The pope began the day with a post on Twitter: "Our faith is born on Easter morning: Jesus is alive! The experience is at the heart of the Christian message." He then delivered the papal blessing "Urbi et Orbi" ("To the City and to the World") from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica.
The night before, Francis celebrated an Easter Vigil service at St. Peter's, where he baptized eight adults into the Roman Catholic faith, including a Nigerian migrant, John Ogah, called a hero in Italy for foiling a robbery.
In his message Sunday, the pope called for peace in a world marked by war and conflict. He cited a need to end the "carnage" in "the beloved and long-suffering land of Syria." He urged "reconciliation" in the Middle East; and pressed for "the fruits of dialogue" to defuse tensions on the Korean Peninsula. He also noted the "hunger, endemic conflicts and terrorism" suffered by parts of Africa.
Pope Francis also touched on the problems in Venezuela, voicing hope that the country would "find a just, peaceful and humane way to surmount quickly the political and humanitarian crises that grip it." The pope said the message of the Resurrection offered hope in a world "marked by so many acts of injustice and violence." He added: "It bears fruits of hope and dignity where there are deprivation and exclusion, hunger and unemployment; where there are migrants and refugees, so often rejected by today's culture of waste, and victims of the drug trade, human trafficking and contemporary forms of slavery." At the Mass, Francis urged Catholics not to remain paralyzed in the face of injustice, and he challenged them to "break out" of their routines and to let God in.
The Resurrection of Christ is also celebrated in parades, religious ceremonies and through quiet reflection around the world.
In Jerusalem, crowds also flocked to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, built on the site where Christians believe Jesus was crucified, buried and resurrected.
In Australia, contemplation of sin and redemption found a topical example in a scandal involving the national cricket team.
Australian cricket has been rocked to the core after three national players conspired to cheat by scuffing the ball with sandpaper during a match against South Africa a week ago.
At St. Andrew's Cathedral in Sydney, the Anglican archbishop Glenn Davies said the redemption of Easter gave hope of forgiveness to all who faced moral failure - including disgraced sportsmen.
"When we all look at our own selves, we recognize we've all been there, we've had our own failures," Mr Davies said, according to Reuters.
"If it's hard enough to confront and stand up to a press gallery and admit you're wrong, what would it be like to stand before the living God and admit that you were wrong?" Back in Italy, the story about Mr Ogah had made headlines in the country's media. He had been begging for spare change outside the Carrefour market in the Centocelle neighborhood of Rome in September when a masked thief, armed with a meat cleaver, tried to make off with 400 euros (about S$646).
Security cameras captured Ogah's next steps: Armed only with his bare hands, he confronted the thief, wrested the cleaver away and, after the man fell from his motorbike when trying to escape, held him by the collar until police officers arrived.
Mr Ogah then disappeared, apparently fearing he would be deported because he had no papers. He had arrived in Italy after reaching Libya and crossing the Mediterranean on a migrant smuggler's boat in May 2014.
Authorities in Rome tracked him down in an effort to reward his heroism, and, within a month, he was given a residency permit. Mr Ogah had previously been denied a permit after an earlier bid for asylum failed, according to The Associated Press.
According to the news agency ANSA, Mr Ogah now has a job with the Italian Red Cross and a place to call home.
In preparing for his baptism, the agency reported, Mr Ogah asked Nunzio Carbone, the Rome police captain who handled his case, to be his godfather. Mr Carbone appeared at the baptism ceremony.
In an interview soon after the theft, Mr Ogah told the newspaper La Repubblica that his dream was to be a legal resident in Italy and to have a job to support his child back home in Nigeria.
"If Pope Francis or the president of the republic could do something for me I would be the happiest man in the world," he was quoted as saying. "I don't want to be a hero. I just want to be legal, work and have a dignified life in Italy." On Saturday, Ogah chose his baptismal name: "Francesco."