VATICAN CITY – Pope John Paul II (search) on Sunday urged world leaders to resolve conflicts in Iraq, the Middle East and Africa, and used his Easter message to pray that hope would vanquish terrorism.
"May the culture of life and love render vain the logic of death," he said.
Dressed in golden robes and a jeweled miter, John Paul delivered the message as he celebrated Easter Mass on the flower-decked steps of St. Peter's Square (search) before tens of thousands of people.
The celebration is the most joyous holiday in the Christian calendar — the day Jesus rose from the dead after crucifixion.
Speaking strongly and clearly despite having completed a grueling spate of Holy Week ceremonies, the pontiff urged the faithful to find the courage to confront today's evils.
"In particular, may (humanity) find the strength to face the inhuman and unfortunately growing phenomenon of terrorism, which rejects life and brings anguish and uncertainty to the daily lives of so many hardworking and peaceful people," John Paul said.
He called for governments and international institutions to work for a more peaceful world order.
"May world leaders be confirmed and sustained in their efforts to resolve satisfactorily the continuing conflicts that cause bloodshed in certain regions of Africa, Iraq and the Holy Land," he said.
John Paul has frequently used his Easter (search) message to reflect on war, poverty and terrorism, and his remarks this year appeared directed to the fresh violence in Iraq and the ongoing hostilities between Israel and the Palestinians.
On Friday, the 83-year-old pontiff, who suffers from Parkinson's disease (search), braved the chilly night air to preside over a reenactment of Christ's Passion at Rome's Colosseum.
In years past, John Paul himself had carried a light cross through the Good Friday ritual recreating the last hours of Jesus' life, but as his health deteriorated in recent years he has left it to others to perform the Stations of the Cross.
On Sunday, John Paul celebrated Mass under a hazy and chilly sky, surrounded by cardinals in red and an arch of pink tulips and yellow daffodils arranged around the altar on the steps of St. Peter's.
At one point during the ceremony, he laughed heartily as a toddler in traditional Asian dress struggled up the stairs of the basilica toward him with her parents and brother to present offerings. He reached out to her and blessed her and the rest of the family.
Later he delivered his annual Easter greetings in a scheduled 62 different languages — including Aramaic, Hebrew, Hindi and Maori — to the applause and shouts of the crowd.
Security was relatively tight around St. Peter's Square on Sunday, with Italian police and Carabinieri paramilitary forces checking the bags of pilgrims and tourists and a ring of police cars at the square's edge.
Italy stepped up security around the Vatican, monuments, airports and other sites over the Easter holiday, as it did during Christmas.
The joyous celebrations in Rome contrasted with the muted Easter festivities in Jerusalem, where a few hundred Palestinian Christians and foreign pilgrims attended Mass at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher — built over the skull-shaped rocky mount believed to be the place where Jesus was crucified.
Many tourists and pilgrims have been frightened away from the Holy Land because of more than three years of Israeli-Palestinian violence. Also, Palestinian Christians from the West Bank were barred from reaching Jerusalem due to Israeli military travel restrictions.