VATICAN CITY?Pope Benedict XVI urged an end to fighting in Libya and called for diplomacy, using his Easter Sunday message to appeal for peace in North Africa and the Middle East.
Benedict also said that politics in North Africa and the Middle East should be based on respect for all.
?In the current conflict in Libya, may diplomacy and dialogue replace arms, and may those who suffer as a result of the conflict be given access to humanitarian aid,? he said.
Referring to Arab unrest in the two regions, the Pope prayed for the realization of a society where ?every political choice is inspired by respect for the human person.?
Marking the Church?s most joyous day of the year, Benedict celebrated Easter Mass in St. Peter?s Square, which was packed with pilgrims and tourists and ablaze in the bright colors of spring flowers.
But while ?in heaven, all is peace and gladness,? Benedict said in his message delivered after the Mass from the central balcony of St. Peter?s Basilica, ?alas, it is not so on earth,? as he lamented hunger, disease, war and violence.
He prayed for people in the Middle East, ?so that the light of peace and of human dignity may overcome the darkness of division, hate and violence.?
?In all the countries of North Africa and the Middle East, may all citizens, especially young people, work to promote the common good and to build a society where poverty is defeated and every political choice is inspired by respect for the human person,? the Pope said.
Europe has been split over whether to accept or deport tens of thousands of migrants, many of them from Libya and elsewhere in North Africa, who have been flooding European shores to flee unrest and bloodshed.
Benedict rallied to the side of the refugee, saying ?may people of good will open their hearts to welcome them.?
The Pope?s traditional ?Urbi et Orbi? message to the city of Rome and the world also called on Ivory Coast to ?tread the path of reconciliation and pardon.?
He also prayed that Japan find consolation as it reels from the devastation from an earthquake and tsunami.
While choir voices rang out across the cobblestone square in late morning Mass, thousands of people were still arriving, filling the boulevard leading from the Tiber to the Vatican.
By the time the Pope delivered his speech, well over 100,000 people had thronged to the area.
Resplendent in gold-colored robes, Benedict led the ceremony from an altar set up on the steps of St. Peter?s Basilica, under a red canopy to shield him from rain or sun. Skies over the Vatican alternated between clouds and peeks of sun.
The 84-year-old Benedict looked relaxed, although his voice cracked a bit as he intoned prayers during the sung parts of the Mass.
On Easter Sunday, St. Peter?s Square was a riot of color, with rows of flowers in full bloom, red-hatted cardinals and tourists waving scarves and flags from their homelands.
The blossoms seemed almost as numerous as the faithful. The Dutch suppliers of the floral decoration said some 41,000 potted plants studded the square.
The flowers included 500 potted hyacinths, 150 lily plants, 1,000 off-white roses, azaleas, tulips, and 10,000 narcissus plants, many of them in yellow and white, the official Vatican colors, and arranged in neat, rows up the slope toward the altar.
After the Gospel was read, selected faithful came up to the Pope who accepted their symbolic offertory gifts.
Seated at the altar, Benedict smiled warmly as three young Italian girls, wearing perfectly pressed Easter dresses, struggled to kneel neatly before him. They were presented by their parents to the Pope.
Benedict prayed aloud that Easter would help believers testify to their faith with ?words and life.?
Shoring up flagging faith in much of the Western world has been a key goal of the Vatican, both under Benedict and his predecessor, John Paul II.
Benedict will return to the square in exactly one week to lead a crowd expected to be at least double Easter?s turnout when he beatifies John Paul II, putting the Polish-born, long-serving Pontiff on the last formal step before eventual sainthood.
During Easter Vigil on Saturday, the Pope marked the holiest night of the year for Christians by stressing that humanity isn?t a random product of evolution.
In his homily, Benedict emphasized the Biblical account of creation, saying it was wrong to think at some point ?in some tiny corner of the cosmos, there evolved randomly some species of living being capable of reasoning and of trying to find rationality within creation, or to bring rationality into it.?
?If man were merely a random product of evolution in some place on the margins of the universe, then his life would make no sense or might even be a chance of nature,? he said. ?But no, reason is there at the beginning: creative, divine reason.?