John Paul II celebrated Easter Sunday Mass in St. Peter´s Square, with about 150,000 people on hand. For the 16th consecutive year was transformed into a garden of over 15,000 flowers and small plants, donated by Dutch flower-growers.
"May the Easter proclamation reach all the peoples of the earth, and may all people of good will feel themselves called to an active role in this day," the Pontiff said at the beginning of his Easter message, which was transmitted by 63 television channels in 45 countries. He referred specifically to those areas of the world ravaged by war.
The Pope mentioned first the ongoing tragic situation in Jerusalem and the Holy Land. He also mentioned the Balkans, "no longer condemned to a worrying uncertainty that risks causing the failure of all proposals for agreement."
Referring to Africa, he described "a continent tormented by conflicts," and encouraged Africans to "raise your head confidently, trusting in the power of the risen Christ."
Addressing Asia, the Pontiff said: "With his help, you too, Asia, the cradle of age-old spiritual traditions, can win the challenge of tolerance and solidarity."
John Paul II´s rapid geographic review of the world, in light of Christ´s resurrection, ended with Latin America. "And you, Latin America, filled with youthful promise, only in Christ will you find the capacity and courage needed for a development respectful of every human being."
Lastly, the Pope shared one of his greatest present concerns: "Men and women of every continent, draw from his tomb, empty now forever, the strength needed to defeat the powers of evil and death, and to place all research and all technical and social progress at the service of a better future for all."
Following his message "urbi et orbi" (to the city of Rome and the world) message, John Paul II expressed Easter greetings in 61 languages. Among these were Hebrew, Arabic, Aramaic and Swahili.
During the Mass, the icon of the Most Holy Redeemer, known as "Acheropita" -- which means not painted by human hands -- was placed on the altar. One of Christianity´s most venerated images, it is kept in a chapel next to the Basilica of St. John Lateran.
The icon represents the image of the risen Christ and, according to tradition, was painted by angels. Up until the 12th century it was taken in procession on Easter Sunday morning. It was not exposed publicly again until last year during the Great Jubilee.