ROME – Christians of the Orthodox and Western faiths across the globe celebrated Easter on Sunday. The alignment of the two faiths’ Easter calendars, based on equinox and moon phases, occurs every few years.
At the Vatican, the Eastern Christian celebrations of Easter resounded across the steps of St. Peter’s Basilica when black-robed clerics intoned a long chant from the Byzantine liturgy during the pope’s outdoor Mass for tens of thousands of faithful at St. Peter’s Square.
In Washington, a dawn crowd gathered for an Easter service at the Lincoln Memorial. Bundled up in blankets, scarves and hats, the worshippers sang “God Bless America” as the sun’s rays glimmered on the reflecting pool.
President Bush worshipped at the chapel at Fort Hood, southwest of his ranch in Crawford, Texas. The sprawling post has sent thousands of soldiers to the war in Iraq.
After weeks of Lenten sacrifice and fasting in preparation for Easter, many Christians in Eastern Europe enjoyed holiday meals including brightly colored hard-boiled eggs. Roast lamb was featured on many tables in the Balkans as well as in Italy.
In the Pacific’s predominantly Christian Solomon Islands, struggling with earthquake and tsunami losses, frightened villagers descended from the hills to celebrate Easter.
“Maybe it’s a punishment from God,” said one worshipper, Furner Smith Arebonato. “Before, there were few people in church. Now, after (the) earthquake, the church is filled with people, some of them never went to church before.”
Pope Benedict XVI, head of the world’s 1.1 billion Catholics, tempered his message about Easter joy with a litany of suffering in the world today, and denounced violence in the name of religion.
Benedict, delivering his traditional “Urbi et Orbi” Easter address, also decried “continual slaughter” in Iraq and bloodshed in parts of Africa and Asia.
“Afghanistan is marked by growing unrest and instability,” Benedict said. “In the Middle East, besides some signs of hope in the dialogue between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, unfortunately, nothing positive comes from Iraq, torn apart by continual slaughter as the civil population flees.”
He also had harsh words about the “underestimated humanitarian situation” in Darfur as well as other African places of suffering.