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Mar 31, 2013 11:19 AM by Matt Stafford

In first Easter Mass as Pope, Francis makes pleas for world peace

VATICAN CITY (AP) - The more-than 250,000 people who gathered in St. Peter's Square on this Easter Sunday have been rewarded with a visit from the new pontiff.

After celebrating Mass, Pope Francis stepped aboard his popemobile for a spin through the crowd, kissing babies and patting children on the head. One man handed Francis a jersey for the pope's favorite soccer team in Argentina. Francis briefly held it up, and the crowd roared in approval.

In his first Easter Sunday message to the world, the pope decried the seemingly endless conflicts in the Middle East and on the Korean peninsula. Like popes before him, he urged Israelis and Palestinians to find the courage to resume peace talks and end a conflict that he said "has lasted all too long." On the Syrian crisis, he asked, "How much suffering must there still be," before there can be a political solution.

He expressed a desire for a "spirit of reconciliation" between the Koreas, at a time when North Korea says it has entered "a state of war" with the South.

And he lamented that the world is "still divided by greed looking for easy gain."

Earlier, wearing cream-colored vestments, Francis celebrated Mass in front of St. Peter's Basilica at an altar set up under a white canopy.

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