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Last Updated: Sunday, 23 March 2008, 11:27 GMT
Pope calls for Easter Day peace
Pope Benedict XVI celebrates an open-air Easter Mass in a rainy St Peter's Square in Rome on Sunday
Driving rain did not deter thousands of pilgrims and tourists

Thousands of pilgrims packed into a rain-soaked St Peter's Square in Rome to hear Pope Benedict XVI give his Easter address.

The Pope called for an end to problems in Tibet, Iraq and the Holy Land in his "urbi et orbi" blessing to the world - broadcast live in 57 countries.

Christians around the world are marking Easter, when they remember the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Late on Saturday, the Pope baptised a controversial, Muslim-born journalist.

Magdi Allam, 55, is deputy director of the leading newspaper Corriere della Sera and has angered some Muslims with his views.

'Tormented'

Driving rain did not deter thousands of pilgrims and tourists from crowding into St Peter's Square to hear the Pope's Easter Mass and, later, his traditional "urbi et orbi" ("to the city and the world") blessing.

Pope Benedict XVI baptises Muslim-born journalist Magdi Allam during the Easter vigil mass in St Peter's Basilica at the Vatican on Saturday
Mr Allam's baptism plans had been kept secret by the Vatican

"How can we fail to remember certain African regions, such as Darfur and Somalia, the tormented Middle East, especially the Holy Land, Iraq, Lebanon and finally Tibet, all of which I encourage to seek solutions that will safeguard peace and the common good," the Pope said.

He said he wished that "the light that streams forth from this solemn day [may] shine forth in every part of the world".

He then offered greetings in 63 languages for Easter, the holiest festival in the Christian calendar.

On Saturday, the journalist Mr Allam was one of a group of adult converts to Roman Catholicism who was baptised by the Pope.

Mr Allam has been an outspoken critic of Muslim militancy and a strong supporter of Israel. He says such views have provoked threats on his life, and he is now protected by a police escort.

Muslim relations

His baptism, which took place in St Peter's Basilica, was kept secret by the Vatican, until just before the vigil mass.

The Pope traditionally baptises newborns on 1 January and adult converts to Catholicism on Easter eve.

Improving relations with the Muslim world is one of the Vatican's key priorities at the moment, says the BBC's David Willey in Rome.

Later this year the Pope will be hosting an unprecedented meeting at the Vatican with Muslim religious leaders from around the world to try to find common ground for future interreligious dialogue, he says.



SEE ALSO
In pictures: Easter Day
23 Mar 08 |  In Pictures

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