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Easter, Passover and Ramadan converge as religious leaders call for peace in Ukraine

VATICAN CITY, VATICAN – APRIL 17: Pope Francis delivers his Easter Urbi et Orbi blessing from the balcony overlooking St. Peter’s Square on April 17, 2022 in Vatican City, Vatican. (Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images)

It’s a weekend of high holy days: Easter, Passover and Ramadan overlap for the first time in 33 years.

The rare convergence of the holidays – time for reflection and hope – has been overshadowed by war in ukraineuniting religious leaders around the world in calls for peace.

Pope Francis, during his Sunday service, called it “the Easter of war”, and in a clear reference to the threat of nuclear war, Francis quoted a statement by scientists in 1955: “‘Let’s end to the human race, or will mankind forgo war?'”

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, the leader of the Anglican Church, said Easter is a time for peace and not “blood and iron”.

Easter

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Archbishop Jose Gomez blesses traditional Aztec dancers and their animals with holy water during the traditional Easter Eve Blessing of Animals on Olvera Street in Los Angeles, California on April 16, 2022. (Photo by DAVID MCNEW / AFP) (Photo by

For Christians, Easter is a day of joy and hope, as they mark their belief that Jesus triumphed over death through the resurrection after his crucifixion.

For many Christians in the United States, this weekend marks the first time since 2019 that they will gather in person on Easter Sunday, a welcome opportunity to celebrate one of the holiest days of the year side by side. side with other devotees.

RELATED: Chicago-area religions observe religious holy days on Fridays

The pandemic broke out in the country in March 2020, just before Easter, forcing many churches to resort to online or televised worship. Many continued to hold virtual services last spring after a deadly winter surge of coronavirus and as vaccination campaigns continued to ramp up. But this year, more churches are opening their doors for Easter services with few COVID-19 restrictions, in line with broader societal trends.

At the Vatican, Pope Francis made an anguished plea on Easter Sunday for peace in the “senseless” war in Ukraine and other armed conflicts raging around the world, and cited the “troubling” risk of a nuclear war.

“May peace reign for war-torn Ukraine, so hard-hit by the violence and destruction of this cruel and senseless war in which it has been drawn,” Francis said, speaking from the central balcony of the St. Peter’s Square.

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VATICAN CITY, VATICAN – APRIL 17: Pope Francis delivers his Easter Urbi et Orbi blessing from the balcony overlooking St. Peter’s Square on April 17, 2022 in Vatican City, Vatican. (Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images)

The pontiff had just finished celebrating Easter Mass in the square which was packed with worshipers for the feast for the first time since the pandemic began in early 2020. Applause erupted from many of the 50,000 people on square and on a nearby avenue when he mentioned Ukraine.

“Please, please don’t get used to war,” Francis pleaded, after denouncing “the flexing of muscles while people suffer.” Again, the pontiff denounced the war in Ukraine without citing Russian President Vladimir Putin for the decision. to launch the invasion and attack on Ukraine on February 24.

“Let us all commit to implore peace, from our balconies and in our streets,” Francis said. “May the leaders of the nations hear the call of the people for peace.”

RELATED: Ukrainian police: more than 900 bodies of civilians found near kyiv after Russian withdrawal

The day before, the Pope had delivered an Easter Vigil homily in the presence of the mayor of the occupied Ukrainian city of Melitopol and three Ukrainian lawmakers.

In Jerusalem, Christian worshipers gathered Sunday at the Church of the Holy Seplucher, the traditional site of the crucifixion, burial and resurrection of Jesus, to observe the feast of Easter.

Thousands of people attended mass at the church in the historic old town, which houses the holy sites of the three monotheistic religions. Tens of thousands of people have come to Jerusalem for the holidays now that most coronavirus restrictions have been lifted.

Easter

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LVIV, UKRAINE – APRIL 11: A Star of David symbol is seen on a stained glass window in Beis Aharon V’Yisrael Synagogue on April 11, 2022 in Lviv, Ukraine. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Passover began Friday evening and lasts for seven days. The Jewish holiday marks the liberation of the Jewish people from slavery in ancient Egypt and their exodus under the leadership of Moses.

In Ukraine, it’s time to pray that God “will work miracles, as he did miracles for the Jewish people in Egypt,” said Rabbi Moshe Azman, chief rabbi of kyiv and Ukraine, on a falls in Ukraine.

The rabbi’s message to Jews in Ukraine who cannot celebrate Passover because they are trapped or have no food is simple, direct and meaningful: “We pray for you. He worries about the residents of the besieged city of Mariupol, the bombed city of Kharkiv.

The rabbi said he and his colleagues have worked to provide needed Jewish food for hundreds of thousands of people across Ukraine. “Be strong,” he said. “To believe in God.” He wanted a “new world, good, without war”.

Ramadan

The Muslim holy month of Ramadan, with long days of fasting and prayer, is meant to bring worshipers closer to God and away from the distractions of the world. It started on Friday April 1 and will end on Sunday May 1.

Fasting in Islam is seen as a way to purify oneself physically and spiritually. It is common for Muslims to do more charitable deeds during Ramadan, such as donating money and feeding the hungry.

RELATED: Ramadan 2022: What is the Islamic holy month? How is it celebrated?

An imam (religious leader) said FOX 26 that Ramadan follows a lunar calendar and the sighting of the new moon.

“[Ramadan] is set on a lunar calendar, so it occurs 11 days earlier every year, so it is not necessarily the exact same season every year,” said Imam Jihad Muhammad. “So if you practice long enough, inchallah (God willing) you will observe…Ramadan in several seasons.”

Clashes in Jerusalem

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JERUSALEM – APRIL 16: Turkish citizen Muhammet Fatih Tokgoz who was injured during Israeli rain on Al-Aqsa Mosque on Friday, reads the holy book of the Quran as injured accuse Israeli forces of excessive use of the force in Jerusalem on April 16, 202

Jews and Muslims flocking to Jerusalem to worship have clashed at holy sites since Friday.

Israeli police entered the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City on Sunday to secure the path for Jewish visitors to the holy powder keg site, fueling clashes that left 17 Palestinians injured, workers say Palestinian doctors.

The unrest came just two days after clashes with Palestinians at the same site. Violence in Jerusalem between Israeli security forces and Palestinian protesters a year ago has escalated into an 11-day war in Gaza.

The hilltop complex housing the mosque is the third holiest site in Islam, while it is the holiest place to Jews, who call it the Temple Mount. Competing claims on the site have sparked numerous waves of violence.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.