Beliefnet
VATICAN CITY, April 23 (AP)--Wrapping up stamina-testing Holy Week ceremonies, Pope John Paul II on Sunday offered Easter wishes for peace as he deplored racism, rejection of immigrants and hardened hearts within the human family.

May Easter "overturn the hardness of our hearts," John Paul said in a voice that was strong through much of the two-hour Easter ceremony but grew tired near the end.

Hand and head tremors, associated with Parkinson's disease, and difficulty in walking because of hip surgery six years ago, made the frequent, long appearances during Holy Week even more of a challenge for the ailing pontiff, who turns 80 next month.

After some rest after a candlelight vigil service, the pope returned in midmorning to the steps outside St. Peter's Basilica to lead an outdoor Mass for more than 100,000 Holy Year pilgrims, tourists and Romans.

By the time the Mass was finished, and the pope began delivering his traditional Easter message "urbi et orbi" (Latin for "to the city and to the world") as well as good wishes in 60 languages, an estimated 150,000 people had turned out, spilling over into the boulevard leading up to the square.

Christ's resurrection, the pope said, "signals the paths of hope along which we can advance together toward a world more just and mutually supportive, in which the blind egoism of the few will not prevail over the cries of pain of the many, reducing entire peoples to conditions of degrading misery."

John Paul prayed that God "grant the human family of the third millennium a just and lasting peace" and for a "happy outcome" to peace talks and other efforts aimed at ending conflicts in Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, Asia and Europe--the last an apparent reference to the fierce fighting in Chechnya.

"Help the nations to overcome old and new rivalries, by rejecting attitudes of racism and xenophobia," the pope prayed.

Some 50,000 flowers from the Netherlands--from daisies to orange azaleas to tulips in many hues--added a blaze of color to the otherwise gray day. The sun eventually broke through an overcast sky, prompting many at the ceremony, from choirboys to cardinals, to pop on sunglasses.

Easter, in which Christians celebrate their belief that Jesus rose from the dead after his crucifixion, is the culmination of Holy Week.

On Saturday night in the square, the pope baptized eight people.

This year, as in recent ones, China was among the countries represented by the newly baptized--an inclusion that stresses a sovereignty over China's Catholics that China itself does not recognize.

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