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Pope appeals for end to Korea tensions in first Easter message

01 April, 2013

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VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis, appearing before more than 250,000 people for his first Easter on Sunday address, called for world peace, respect for the environment and a diplomatic solution to the crisis on the Korean peninsula.

In his "Urbi et Orbi" (to the city and the world) message, he also appealed for a resumption of peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, an end to the civil war in Syria and political solutions to conflicts in several African countries.

The former Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina, who has made defence of nature an early hallmark of his pontificate, also condemned the "iniquitous exploitation of natural resources" and urged everyone to be "guardians" of creation.

Francis delivered his message from the central balcony of St Peter's Basilica - the same spot from where he first appeared to the world as pope after his election on March 13 - to a crowd estimated by the Vatican at more than 250,000.

"Peace in Asia, above all on the Korean peninsula: may disagreements be overcome and a renewed spirit of reconciliation grow," he said, speaking in Italian. North Korea said on Saturday it was entering a "state of war" with South Korea.

Tensions have been high since North Korean leader Kim Jong-un ordered a third nuclear weapons test in February, breaching UN sanctions and ignoring warnings from North Korea's sole major ally, China, not to do so. People thronged the open jeep that carried Pope Francis around at the end of a Mass. He stopped to accept a jersey with his "Bergoglio" name on it from fans of an Argentine football club and to comfort a handicapped man.

Francis, who has brought a more simple and personal style to the papacy, said the message of Easter is that faith can help people transform their lives by letting "those desert places in our hearts bloom".

End.

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