Thousands of people cheered loudly after Pope Benedict XVI blessed the crowd at St. Peter’s Square on Sunday and delivered a message of peace as he celebrated his first Easter mass as Pope. Speaking from the steps of St. Peter’s Basilica at Vatican City, Pope Benedict called on faithful Roman Catholics to pray for peace in Iraq and a solution to the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.

He called for dialogue to overcome the obstacles between Israelis and the Palestinians. He defended Israel’s right to exist, but called firmly for the establishment of a Palestinian state. Pope Benedict also spoke of the importance of finding a negotiated and "honourable solution" for the Iran nuclear crisis.

The Pope urged that peace would "finally prevail" in Iraq, where he said violence "continues mercilessly to claim victims." He also spoke of the hardships in Latin America and Africa, particularly Sudan’s troubled Darfur region. At the end of the mass, he addressed the crowd from the terrace of St. Peter’s Basilica to give the traditional Urbi et Orbi address (Latin for "to the city and to the world").

The mass coincided with the Pope’s 79th birthday and was broadcast to 65 countries.

Easter is the most joyous day on the Catholic Church’s liturgical calendar and is believed to mark the resurrection of Jesus after his crucifixion on Good Friday.