Pope Benedict XVI offered an Easter prayer for diplomacy to prevail over warfare in Libya and for citizens of the Middle East to build a new society based on respect.

He also called on Europeans to welcome refugees from North Africa.

“In heaven, all is peace and gladness. But, alas, all is not so on earth!” the Pope said as he delivered the traditional Urbi et Orbi message from the central balcony of St Peter’s Basilica to a crowd of more than 100,000 that overflowed from St Peter’s Square.

“In the current conflict in Libya, may diplomacy and dialogue replace arms, and may those who suffer as a result of the conflict be given access to humanitarian aid,” he said.

Referring to North Africa and the Middle East, the Pope prayed that all citizens, especially young people, would “work to promote the common good and to build a society where poverty is defeated and every political choice is inspired by respect for the human person”.

Uprisings, repression and civil warfare have triggered an exodus of people to Italian shores as well as other countries in the region.

Benedict rallied to the side of refugees, urging people of good will to “open their hearts to welcome them”.

“Here, in this world of ours, the Easter alleluia still contrasts with the cries and laments that arise from so many painful situations: deprivation, hunger, disease, war, violence,” said the pontiff.

This year, Easter fell on the same day in the Orthodox and Roman Catholic church calendars, and in Jerusalem, Orthodox and Catholics worshipped at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, revered as the site of Jesus’ Good Friday crucifixion and burial and of his resurrection on Easter Sunday.

Protestants held their own ceremonies outside the walled Old City at the Garden Tomb.

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