THE VATICAN — For the second year in a row since the onset of the pandemic, Pope Francis delivered an Easter blessing and speech in a scaled-back ceremony on Sunday.

During the event — held in St. Peter’s Basilica with notably fewer people in attendance than before the pandemic — the pope repeated his call for broad access to COVID-19 vaccines across the world.

“Everyone requires assistance and has the right to have access to necessary care,” Francis said. “This is even more evident in these times where all of us are called to combat the pandemic, and vaccines are an essential tool in this fight.”

Pope Francis also prayed for the safe return home of prisoners of long conflicts in Europe, in eastern Ukraine and in Nagorno-Karabkh.

The Pope denounced as “scandalous” how armed conflicts continue to rage even as the coronavirus pandemic has triggered severe social and economic suffering and swollen the ranks of the poor.

Pope Francis also strongly extended his support for young protesters in Myanmar, who are opposing the military’s coup in increasingly deadly demonstrations, and he urged an end to conflicts in Yemen and Syria.

“May all parties involved commit themselves effectively to ending conflicts and allowing war-weary peoples to live in peace,” he said.

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