Easter Messages Touch on Pressing World Concerns

Easters messages this year touched on pressing world issues, ranging from the war in Iraq to environmentalism.

In a radio address Thursday, as he spoke of the "gift that took away death's sting," President Bush asked the public to pray for American troops in Iraq and to remember the lives that were sacrificed in working toward freedom.

"These brave individuals have lived out the words of the Gospel: 'Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends,'" he said. "And our nation's fallen heroes live on in the memory of the nation they helped defend."

The president had remarked in a speech for the war's fifth anniversary that the progress in Iraq has been "undeniable" and credited the surge for "a major strategic victory in the broader war on terror."

Religious freedom was at the heart of Pope Benedict XVI's observance of Good Friday in Saint Peter's Basilica. While he did not mention China by name, the Pope spoke of "living martyrs" who suffer for their faith just before a Chinese woman carried the cross during the Way of the Cross procession at the Coliseum, the Associated Press reported.

"We find ourselves united on this day, at this hour, and in this place, which reminds us about your so many servants who, centuries ago, amid the roars of hungry lions and the shouts of the amused crowd, let themselves be ripped apart and fatally attacked for loyalty to your name," he said in a prayer.

For the patriarchs and heads of churches in Jerusalem, Easter was a call to those involved in the West Bank, Gaza, and Israeli society to demonstrate "faith in more positive terms."

The group called on leaders in Palestine and Israel to change the violent means of security and on those elsewhere to join in the effort of ensuring peace.

"You too are responsible with us for restoring in it the joy of the Resurrection so as to lift the burdens of death, hatred, Occupation, Security Walls and the fear of taking the risk of peace," read the Jerusalem church leaders' statement.

"Do whatever you can and please involve your governments too to assume their responsibilities for the peace of this land."

The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, spoke of caring for the environment as a way of serving one another's neighbors and thereby showing love for God.

"We are beginning to be aware of the ways in which our lack of concern for the rest of creation results in death and destruction for our neighbors," she stated in her Easter message. "We cannot love our neighbors unless we care for the creation that supports all our earthly lives."

Other messages, while not touching upon a specific plight in today's world, reminded believers of the hope that they have been called to hold on to and proclaim of.

"God is not hidden, but present through suffering, sorrow, and death," stated the Rev. Mark S. Hanson, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, in his Easter message.

While "this world's violence and suffering – so pervasive, so needless, so relentless – haunt every human community and life," Hanson reminded believers that "[f]rom that first day of resurrection onward, God has been raising up messengers of salvation, heralds of peace, and testifiers of the promised glory."

"You are a witness of the hope to come," he continued. "Quite simply, Christ is your life, my life, our life. You have no other than this One who lives resurrected in you."

And, like all the Easter messages this year and every year, Hanson exclaimed, "Christ is risen! Alleluia!"

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