Pope Francis calls for immediate ceasefire in Gaza in Easter Urbi et Orbi message from the Vatican

Pope Francis calls for immediate ceasefire in Gaza in Easter Urbi et Orbi message from the Vatican

POPE FRANCIS has used his Easter message to call for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and an end to conflict around the world.

After celebrating Mass, the Pontiff delivered his traditional Easter Urbi et Orbi message from the central loggia of St Peter's Basilica to a gathering of around 60,000 faithful.

Pope Francis was speaking days after the International Court of Justice instructed Israel to open more crossing points to Gaza and cooperate to provide unhindered humanitarian assistance.

In his address, in which he also called for an end to the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, the Pope similarly called for aid supplies to be delivered to Gaza, saying Christ can 'open a path of peace'.

"My thoughts go especially to the victims of the many conflicts worldwide, beginning with those in Israel and Palestine, and in Ukraine," said the Pontiff.

"May the risen Christ open a path of peace for the war-torn peoples of those regions.

"In calling for respect for the principles of international law, I express my hope for a general exchange of all prisoners between Russia and Ukraine: all for the sake of all!

"I appeal once again that access to humanitarian aid be ensured to Gaza, and call once more for the prompt release of the hostages seized on October 7 last and for an immediate ceasefire in the Strip.

'Children have forgotten how to smile'

"Let us not allow the current hostilities to continue to have grave repercussions on the civil population, by now at the limit of its endurance, and above all on the children.

"How much suffering we see in the eyes of the children: the children in those lands at war have forgotten how to smile!

"With those eyes, they ask us: Why? Why all this death? Why all this destruction?

"War is always an absurdity, war is always a defeat! Let us not allow the strengthening winds of war to blow on Europe and the Mediterranean.

"Let us not yield to the logic of weapons and rearming. Peace is never made with arms, but with outstretched hands and open hearts."

According to Reuters, Palestinian health authorities claimed on Sunday that 77 Palestinians had been killed in Israeli strikes on Gaza in the previous 24 hours.

The news agency reports that Egypt is currently hosting an Israeli delegation in a new round of talks to secure a peace deal.

However, a Hamas official told Reuters that it would not be present at the talks in Cairo as it held out for a new offer from Israel.