POPE FRANCIS: GOD’S MERCY CAN MAKE EVEN THE DRIEST LAND FLOWER

Vatican City, 31 March 2013 (VIS) – At 10:15 this morning, Easter Sunday, the Holy Father Francis celebrated the Mass of the Lord's Resurrection in St. Peter's Square. Faithful from Rome and pilgrims from around the world participated in the celebration, which began with the "Resurrexit" rite—in which an icon of the Risen Lord, placed next to the papal altar, is opened and venerated to recall St. Peter's witness of the resurrection. The Pope did not give a homily since immediately after the Mass he gave his Easter message and “Urbi et Orbi” blessing (to the city and to the world).

In honour of the feast, St. Peter's Square was decorated with splendid floral arrangements. More than 40,000 flowers, donated by Dutch horticulturists, transformed the area around the altar into a magnificent garden. Yellow daffodils and white lilies highlighted, the colours of Easter and the papal flag that represent the purity of Jesus' sacrifice and the glory of his resurrection. The pink flowers—delphinium and cherry blossoms—symbolized the light of the risen Christ who destroys darkness.

At noon, from the central loggia of the Vatican Basilica, the Holy Father Francis addressed the over 250,000 people overflowing St. Peter's Square and those who were following the celebration by radio or television. He delivered his Easter proclamation—“God’s mercy can make even the driest land become a garden!”—and made a strong appeal for peace throughout the world. He then imparted the “Urbi et Orbi” blessing. Following is the full text of the Pope's message:

Dear brothers and sisters in Rome and throughout the world, Happy Easter! Happy Easter!”

What a joy it is to announce this message: Christ is risen! I would like it to go out to every house and every family, especially where the suffering is greatest, in hospitals, in prisons… Most of all, I would like it to enter every heart, for it is there that God wants to sow this Good News: Jesus is risen, there is hope for you, you are no longer in the power of sin or of evil! Love has triumphed! Mercy has been victorious! God's mercy always triumphs!”

We too, like the women who were Jesus’ disciples, who went to the tomb and found it empty, may wonder what this event means (cf. Lk 24:4). What does it mean that Jesus is risen? It means that the love of God is stronger than evil and death itself; it means that the love of God can transform our lives and let those desert places in our hearts bloom. God's love can do this.”

This same love out of which the Son of God became man and followed the way of humility and self-giving to the very end, down to hell—to the abyss of separation from God—this same merciful love has flooded Jesus' dead body with light and transfigured it; has made it pass into eternal life. Jesus did not return to his former life, to an earthly life, but entered into the glorious life of God and He entered there with our humanity, opening us to a future of hope.”

This is what Easter is: it is the exodus, the passage of human beings from the slavery to sin and evil to the freedom of love and goodness. Because God is life, life alone, and we are his glory, the living person.”

Dear brothers and sisters, Christ died and rose once for all time and for everyone, but the power of the Resurrection, this passing from the slavery to evil to the freedom of goodness, must be accomplished in every age, in our concrete existence, in our everyday lives. How many deserts, even today, do human beings need to cross! Above all, the desert within, when are lacking love for God and neighbour, when we fail to realize that we are guardians of all that the Creator has given us and continues to give us. God’s mercy can make even the driest land become a garden, can restore life to dry bones (cf. Ez 37:1-14).”

So this is the invitation that I address to everyone: Let us accept the grace of Christ’s Resurrection! Let us be renewed by God’s mercy! Let us be loved by Jesus! Let us enable the power of his love to transform our lives too and let us become agents of this mercy, channels through which God can water the earth, protect all creation and make justice and peace flourish.”

And so we ask the risen Jesus, who turns death into life, to change hatred into love, vengeance into forgiveness, war into peace. Yes, Christ is our peace, and through him we implore peace for all the world.”

Peace for the Middle East, in particular between Israelis and Palestinians who struggle to find the road of agreement: that they may willingly and courageously resume negotiations to end a conflict that has lasted all too long. Peace in Iraq: that every act of violence may end. And above all for dear Syria, for its people torn by conflict and for the many refugees who await help and comfort. How much blood has been shed! And how much suffering must there still be before a political solution to the crisis will be found?”

Peace for Africa, still the scene of bloody conflicts. In Mali: may unity and stability be restored. In Nigeria, where attacks sadly continue, gravely threatening the lives of many innocent people, and where great numbers of persons, including children, are held hostage by terrorist groups. Peace in the East of the Democratic Republic of Congo and in the Central African Republic where many have been forced to leave their homes and continue to live in fear.”

Peace in Asia, above all on the Korean peninsula: may disagreements be overcome and a renewed spirit of reconciliation grow.”

Peace in the whole world, still divided by greed looking for easy gain, wounded by the selfishness which threatens human life and the family, selfishness that continues in human trafficking, the most extensive form of slavery in this twenty-first century. Human trafficking is precisely the most extensive form of slavery in this twenty-first century! Peace to the whole world, torn apart by violence linked to drug trafficking and by the iniquitous exploitation of natural resources! Peace to this our Earth! Made the risen Jesus bring comfort to the victims of natural disasters and make us responsible guardians of creation.”

Dear brothers and sisters, to all of you who are listening to me, from Rome and from all over of the world, I address the invitation of the Psalm: 'Give thanks to the Lord for He is good; for his mercy endures for ever. Let Israel say: “His mercy endures forever”.' (Ps 118:1-2).”

Dear brothers and sisters who have come from all over the world to this Square, the heart of Christianity and to all of you joining us via the media, I repeat my wishes for a happy Easter! Bring to your families and your nations the message of joy, of hope, and of peace that every year, on this day, is powerfully renewed. May the Risen Lord, who defeated sin and death, sustain us all especially the weakest and those most in need. Thank you for your presence and the witness of your faith. A thought and special thanks for the gift of these beautiful flowers that come from the Netherlands. I affectionately repeat to all of you: May the Risen Christ guide all of you and all of humanity on the paths of justice, love, and peace!”

Then, in Latin, Pope Francis imparted the “Urbi et Orbi” blessing.