Pope Francis urged the world to resist “the logic of weapons” in his Easter message at the Vatican on Sunday, easing growing health fears as he greeted thousands of Catholics.

The 87-year-old’s “Urbi et Orbi” (To the City and the World) blessing came after he led Easter Mass in front of 60,000 worshippers at Saint Peter’s Square while appearing in good spirits.

In his traditional speech broadcasted worldwide, Francis condemned war as “always an absurdity and a defeat”, raising conflicts in Ukraine, Gaza, Sudan, Myanmar, Lebanon and beyond.

He renewed appeals for a ceasefire in Gaza, calling for greater aid deliveries to the devastated territory and the release of hostages.

The civilian population is “now at the limit of its endurance”, he said, lamenting the impact on children especially.

“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,” he added.

The pope proposed a “general exchange of all prisoners between Russia and Ukraine” as the war between the two countries grinds through its third year.

Pope Francis also urged world leaders to “spare no efforts in combating the scourge of human trafficking” to free its victims.

Moments before the blessing, Francis passed through the adoring crowd on his “papamobile” as pilgrims shouted “Long live the pope!”, waved flags and strained to take pictures.

The pope on Saturday presided over the Easter Vigil at the Vatican in front of some 6,000 people from around the world, a day after his last-minute cancellation at a major Good Friday procession revived questions about his health.

He delivered a 10-minute homily in Italian, speaking without any undue difficulty and condemning “the walls of selfishness and indifference” in the world.

At the end of the two-and-a-half-hour service he showed little sign of fatigue, taking time to greet and bless some of the worshipers.

In a brief statement Friday, the Vatican had said that “to preserve his health ahead of tomorrow’s vigil and the Easter Sunday mass, Pope Francis will this evening follow the Way of the Cross at the Colosseum from the Santa Marta Residence”, where he lives.

The last-minute decision raised questions about how long Francis can continue to lead the Catholic Church.

A Vatican source told AFP on Friday there was “no particular concern” about his health and the decision to pull out had been “simply a measure of caution.”

With AFP