Pope, drawing hope from Easter, insists world can change for better

Sunday, April 15th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

VATICAN CITY (AP) _ Drawing hope from Easter Sunday, Pope John Paul II insisted the world can change for the better, with peace possible in the Middle East, the Balkans, Africa and other places tormented by violent conflicts.

Braving unusually chilly temperatures for a Roman spring, the nearly 81-year-old ailing pope led tens of thousands of faithful in late-morning Mass in St. Peter's Square.

The appearance culminated a series of religious appointments that gave the pope a taxing Holy Week schedule, including a late night Saturday vigil service that Vatican officials decided at the last minute to move inside St. Peter's Basilica because of rain.

Age and physical ailments have taken their toll on the pope, and for the first time, John Paul walked and carried a cross for only a very small part of the Good Friday ceremony at the Colosseum. Time between public ceremonies has also been lengthened in some cases to give the pontiff, who turns 81 next month, more time to rest.

The optimism John Paul expressed during his homily for Sunday's Mass seemed in stark contrast with his limits. His left hand trembles markedly and his words are often slurred, symptoms of Parkinson's disease, and his figure is stooped. But his voice was strong when he urged humanity to have hope.

``Men and women of the third millennium, the Easter gift of light that scatters the darkness of fear and sadness is meant for everyone,'' John Paul told some 100,000 faithful in St. Peter's Square, a scene made brilliant with bursts of flowers and potted plants.

``Rediscover with joy and wonder that the world is no longer a slave to the inevitable. This world of ours can change: peace is possible even where for too long there has been fighting and death,'' the pontiff declared, going on to single out ``the Holy Land and Jerusalem,'' the Balkans, Africa, Asia and Latin America.

John Paul also prayed that mankind be supported ``in our dedication to building a more human world.''