by Desmond O'Grady in Rome THE POPE'S EASTER message called for peace and respect of human life, and condemmed both terrorism and "reprisals" in what was taken as a reference to the recent US retaliation against Libya.
John Paul 11 condemned all "methods of death", from starvation and abortion to warfare. God, said the Pope "calls man to oppose death wherever it appears today as fruit of egoism, of divisions, of violence: in regions bloodied by guerrilla fighting and conflicts, where there are temptations of terrorism and reprisal, in nations where persons' rights, dignity and freedom are restricted."
The US Secretary of State, George Shultz, and his Catholic wife Helen, sat with Italy's Minister for Foreign Affairs, Giulio Andreotti, in the front row of the congregation to hear the Pope's address. Over 200,000 people attended the Easter celebration under warm sunshine in St Peter's Square.
The Pope's Easter address came at the end of Mr Shultz's three day visit to Rome, during which he, and Signor Andreotti discussed the Sixth Fleet's recent clash with Libya in the Gulf of Sine. The Italian Government opposed what they termed American "gunboat diplomacy" asserting that disputes over international waters should be settled by arbitration.
Earlier during Holy Week, Pope John Paul had voiced his concern at events in the Gulf of Sirte. "Public opinion follows with fear and concern the news of events occurring in the Mediterranean. I, too, am concerned and pray that the crisis may find a prompt, reasonable and peaceful solution."
John Paul II also spoke during his Easter address of the meeting of representatives of all the world's religions in Assisi, scheduled for October. The Pope's first appeal for the gathering, which will take place in St Francis's Basilica, came in January. A number of religious leaders have already accepted his invitation, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Robert Runcie.
After his message, the Pope issued traditional Easter greetings in 49 languages two less than last year, and then delivered his Urbi et orbi blessing from the altar in front of the Basilica. The 30 minute speech was broadcast live by the BBC for English viewers, after the national netskork reconsidered last year's decision to drop the papal blessing from its Easter Sunday schedule.