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Pope's Easter speech renews calls for peace in Gaza, Ukraine

ROME - Speaking to tens of thousands of followers in St. Peter's Square, and millions more across the globe, Pope Francis gave a solemn accounting of a world in crisis Sunday, using the pulpit of his Easter address to renew calls for a cease-fire in Gaza while drawing attention to other conflicts, from Ukraine to Haiti, heightened risks of famine, the threat of climate change and the plight of migrants.

The pope's Easter address, known as an Urbi et Orbi - or a speech "to the city [of Rome] and the world" - doesn't often make news but is, along with the speech delivered at Christmas, one of the most important on the papal calendar. His words served to crystallize the ills plaguing a fragile, violent world and found the pontiff of 1.3 billion Catholics fulfilling a role he frequently assumes: humanity's conscience and moral compass.

Surrounded by the splendor of the Vatican and 35,000 blooms supplied by Dutch florists, Francis appeared steady if occasionally labored while speaking, after skipping or reducing his participation in several events during Holy Week leading up to Easter. The week is considered among the most physically taxing for the 87-year-old and came this year as concerns have mounted about his health.


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