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Saturday, April 3, 1999 Published at 00:18 GMT 01:18 UK


World: Europe

Pope in Easter procession



By David Willey in Rome


[ image: No Easter truce for Kosovo]
No Easter truce for Kosovo
Thousands of pilgrims joined the Pope in a candlelit procession in the ruins of the ancient Roman amphitheatre, the Colosseum, to mark Good Friday.

The 79-year-old Pontiff, looking tired, made a Good Friday speech comparing people killed in the Kosovo conflict to Christ on the cross and invited all those concerned about the crisis to have the "audacity to hope" in the face of humanitarian dramas.

The Pope's earlier request for an Easter truce has been rejected by both sides in the Balkans conflict.

Wooden cross

The 79-year-old pontiff, who underwent hip replacement surgery in 1994, supported himself with a walking stick most of the way but managed to carry a simple wooden cross for part of the ceremony.

Earlier in the day the Pope met the Vatican envoy, who on Thursday travelled to Belgrade on an unsuccessful peace mission to President Milosevic.

The Pope had proposed an Easter truce in the Balkans conflict lasting from Easter Sunday to the following Sunday when orthodox Christians celebrate Christ' resurrection according to their calendar but this was rejected both by the Yugoslav leader and by Nato.

The Yugoslav ambassador to the Vatican said the Holy See was wasting its time and that the Pope should knock at others doors - those of the Nato countries bombing his country.

No let up

President Clinton replied to the Pope that there would be no let up in the air strikes until President Milosevic stopped attacking and persecuting Albanian citizens in Kosovo.

In his traditional speech to the city of Rome and to the world on Easter Sunday, the Pope is expected to make yet another call for peace and reconciliation in the Balkans.

Next month the Pope is due to visit Romania - his first to a predominantly orthodox country.



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