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Pope Francis appeals for Gaza ceasefire and Russia-Ukraine prisoner swap in Easter Sunday prayers

Pope Francis called for a ceasefire in Gaza and a prisoner swap between Russia and Ukraine as he led some 30,000 people in Easter celebrations on Sunday 31 March.

The pontiff presided over Mass in a packed and flower-decked St Peter’s Square, and then delivered his “Urbi et Orbi” (to the city and the world) message from the central balcony of St Peter’s Basilica.

“Peace is never made with weapons, but with outstretched hands and open hearts,” Francis said, overlooking the square.

He called for the “prompt” release of prisoners taken from Israel on 7 October, an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and for humanitarian access to reach Palestinians.