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Pope Francis' Easter Message Draws Crowd Of Tens Of Thousands Amid Rain

05/04/2015 14:43 BST | Updated 05/04/2015 14:59 BST

Tens of thousands of people, wearing raincoats and carrying umbrellas, braved the rain to hear Pope Francis deliver his Easter message that called for peace and backed the nuclear agreement with Iran.

Cautious hope ran through Francis' "Urbi et Orbi" Easter message about world's affairs, which he delivered from the central balcony of St. Peter's Square.

In an Easter peace wish, Pope Francis praised the framework agreement with Iran as an opportunity to make the world safer, while expressing deep worry about bloodshed in Libya, Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Nigeria and elsewhere in Africa.

During Mass, Francis was shielded from pelting rain by a canopy erected outside St. Peter's Basilica, while prelates carried umbrellas in the yellow and white colors of the Vatican.

The downpour petered out to a drizzle, and by the end of the ceremony, the rain had stopped. Francis, wearing a white overcoat, was driven through the square in the open-sided popemobile so he could wave to the faithful.

Pope Francis Gives His Easter Message

Easter day is "so beautiful, and so ugly because of the rain," Francis said in his message after Mass.

He expressed thanks for the flowers that bedecked the square and which were donated by the Netherlands, but the bright hues of the azaleas and other blossoms seemed muted by the gray skies.

Francis made his first public comments about the recent framework for an accord, reached in Lausanne, Switzerland, and aimed at ensuring Iran doesn't develop a nuclear weapon.

"In hope we entrust to the merciful Lord the framework recently agreed to in Lausanne, that it might be a definitive step toward a more secure and fraternal world."

Decrying the plentitude of weapons in the world in general, Francis said: "And we ask for peace for this world subjected to arms dealers, who earn their living with the blood of men and women."

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He denounced "absurd bloodshed and all barbarous acts of violence" in Libya, convulsed by fighting fueled by tribal and militia rivalries. He hoped "a common desire for peace" would prevail in Yemen, wracked by civil warfare.

Francis prayed that the "roar of arms may cease" in Syria and Iraq, and that peace would come in Africa for Nigeria, South Sudan, Sudan and Congo.

He recalled the young people, many of them targeted because they were Christians, killed last week in a Kenyan university, and lamented kidnappings, by Islamic extremists, that have plagued parts of Africa, including Nigeria.

He also cited bloodshed closer to home, in Ukraine, praying that the Eastern European nation would "rediscover peace and hope thanks to the commitment of all interested parties." Government forces have been battling Russian-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine, months after a cease-fire was proclaimed following international diplomatic efforts.

In his sermon from Canterbury Cathedral, Justin Welby sought to reclaim the definition of the word "martyr".

He said: "To witness is to be a martyr. I am told by the Coptic Bishop in England that the Coptic Christians murdered in Libya last month died proclaiming that Jesus Christ is Lord.

"They are martyrs, a word that means both one that dies for their faith and one that witnesses to faith. There have been so many martyrs in the last year. On Maundy Thursday, three days ago around 150 Kenyans were killed because of being Christian. They are witnesses, unwilling, unjustly, wickedly, and they are martyrs in both senses of the word.

Christians must resist without violence the persecution they suffer and support persecuted communities, with love and goodness and generosity.