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The BBC's David Willey in Rome
"The Pope sent messages of encouragement to parts of the world torn by conflict"
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Sunday, 15 April, 2001, 10:54 GMT 11:54 UK
Pope leads Easter celebrations
The Pope gives the blessing at the end of the Easter mass
The Pope greets the faithful in St Peter's Square
Pope John Paul has used his traditional Easter message to express his hope for peace in the Middle East, the Balkans, Africa and other places tormented by violent conflicts.

Speaking to 100,000 people gathered in Saint Peter's square in Rome, the Pope said the world could change for the better and he urged humanity not to accept conflict as inevitable.

The Easter gift of light that scatters the darkness of fear and sadness is meant for everyone

John Paul II
His address, known by its Latin name Urbi et Orbi - To the city and the world - was the culmination of four days of Holy Week services in the Vatican.

The Pope also greeted worshippers from around the world in more than 60 languages.

Braving unusually chilly temperatures for a Roman spring, he led the congregation in late-morning Mass.

Drawing hope from Easter Sunday, Pope John Paul expressed hopes for peace in places marked by fighting and death, such as the Holy Land.

"Men and women of the third millennium, the Easter gift of light that scatters the darkness of fear and sadness is meant for everyone," Pope John Paul told the crowd.

Orthodox prayers

In a gesture to Orthodox Christians, who this year celebrate Easter at the same time, the Pope included special prayers in the liturgy, and Orthodox icons were displayed.

The Pope baptizes a child from China
Time for a smile as the Pope baptizes a Chinese child
The service capped four hectic days for the Pope, who will be 81 next month.

On Saturday night, he led a three-hour candlelit vigil in St Peter's Basilica - the most solemn ceremony in the Roman Catholic calendar.

He lit the main candle whose flame flickered alongside thousands of smaller ones distributed to people gathered inside the darkened basilica.

The pontiff, who has trouble walking, had to catch his breath occasionally while reciting the prayers and hymns.

But he smiled as he baptized a young Chinese girl during the ceremony and blessed people from Albania, Japan, Italy, Peru and the United States.

On Good Friday, the Pope failed to walk the route of the traditional procession to the Colosseum for the first time in 22 years.

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