VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI sought to give a message of hope on Easter Sunday to victims of wars, poverty and financial turmoil, saying it was urgently needed to overcome the miseries that are plaguing Africa, the Middle East and other parts of the globe.
Benedict delivered his "Urbi et Orbi" message - Latin for "to the city and the world" - after celebrating Easter Mass before tens of thousands of people who packed St. Peter's Square and the boulevard leading up to it.
The piazza, decorated with yellow tulips, azaleas, apple blossoms and other spring flowers, overflowed with the faithful celebrating the most joyous and important day in the Christian church calendar, Christ's resurrection.
In his speech, Benedict said hope was urgently needed around the globe, despite mounting reasons for despair.
"At a time of world food shortage, of financial turmoil, of old and new forms of poverty, of disturbing climate change, of violence and depravation which force many to leave their homelands in search of a less precarious form of existence, of the ever-present threat of terrorism, of growing fears over the future, it is urgent to rediscover grounds for hope," he said.
In Jerusalem, the faithful celebrated Mass at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, traditionally believed to mark the site where Jesus was crucified, buried and then resurrected. Brown-robed friars marched into the church to the sound of bagpipes, followed by clergymen in purple capes and others bearing crosses.
And in the earthquake-ravaged central Italian city of L'Aquila, survivors gathered in makeshift chapels set up in tent cities that are housing some of the 55,000 people driven from their homes by Monday's 6.3-magnitude temblor.
"We are all a little bit angry with God because we never expected a tragedy this big," L'Aquila Archbishop Giuseppe Molinari told the faithful gathered in a tent. "But even anger toward God is a sign of faith."
Benedict, who is expected to visit the quake zone soon, issued special Easter wishes to the quake survivors praying that they have "the courage necessary to go forward together to build a future open to hope."
Benedict delivered his Easter message from the loggia of St. Peter's Basilica, tripping slightly as he climbed up to his gilded chair. As aides lunged to steady him, he recovered and delivered his speech to the crowds below.
He noted that he plans to travel to the Holy Land in just a few weeks and said he would bring a message of hope and love to the region.
"Reconciliation - difficult but indispensable - is a precondition for a future of overall security and peaceful coexistence, and it can only be achieved through renewed, persevering and sincere efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict," he said.
And he recalled his recent trip to Africa in urging the faithful to keep up hope to combat poverty and wars.
"Africa suffers disproportionately from the cruel and unending conflicts, often forgotten, that are causing so much bloodshed and destruction in several of her nations, and from the growing numbers of her sons and daughters who fall prey to hunger, poverty and disease," Benedict said.
The crowd shouted "Benedetto" - Italian for Benedict - as they waited for him to appear at the loggia. They cheered as they awaited his Easter blessing, this year delivered in 63 languages.
Benedict celebrated Easter Mass after presiding over the solemn, three-plus-hour Easter Vigil ceremony Saturday night. At the end of that service, Benedict sounded hoarse and looked tired.
But the pope - who turns 82 on Thursday - appeared well-rested by Sunday morning and held up well throughout the Mass.
He is expected to travel Sunday afternoon to the papal summer retreat in Castel Gandolfo, in the hills south of Rome, for a few days of rest after the busy Holy Week services.
The pope's May 8-15 Middle East tour, his first to the region as pope, will include Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian territories, with stops in cities including Amman, Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Nazareth.