Page last updated at 13:09 GMT, Sunday, 12 April 2009 14:09 UK

Papal Easter Message urges peace

By David Willey
BBC News, Rome

Pope Benedict XVI celebrates Easter Mass in St Peter's Square, 12 April
The Easter Mass on St Peter's Square was attended by tens of thousands

The Pope has called for renewed efforts to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in his traditional Easter message to the city of Rome and to the world.

In a few weeks, Benedict XVI will be visiting the Middle East.

Recalling his recent visit to Africa, he said the continent suffered disproportionately from cruel and often forgotten conflicts.

The Pope prayed for the tens of thousands of Italians who lost their homes in last week's earthquake.

"May the risen Christ grant them the wisdom and courage necessary to reconstruct their future in a spirit of hope," he said.

Africa suffers disproportionately from the cruel and unending conflicts, often forgotten, that are causing so much bloodshed
Pope Benedict XVI

At a time of world food shortages, of financial turmoil and of disturbing climate change, we all need hope, the Pope insisted.

He called for peace and reconciliation in the Middle East and in Africa.

Only through reconciliation, and through renewed effort can the Israeli-Palestinian conflict be resolved Pope Benedict stressed.

And he went on to plead for an end to the "conflicts that are causing so much bloodshed and destruction" in the African continent.

Church membership is increasing faster in Africa than in any other part of the world.

The Pope has recently visited the continent. It is clear that what he saw there deeply affected him.

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