'May love triumph over hate,' the Pope said in his message Urbi et Orbi (To the City and the World) to 100,000 people sheltering under umbrellas in a rain- drenched St Peter's Square.
'The peoples enervated by material and moral poverty thirst for security and peace. When will people finally be able to live as brothers and sisters in harmony with one another?' he said.
He hoped the joy of the Easter message of Christ's resurrection would resound 'in all the nations where the din of weapons continues, where nationalism arouses dangerous forms of evil extremism, where races and social classes endlessly oppose one another'.
Thousands of pilgrims arrived in the square at the end of a peace march through Rome led by mayors of cities devastated by 20th-century wars - Sarajevo, Vukovar and Osijek in former Yugoslavia, Guernica in Spain, and Coventry.
The Pope said he was sending a personal letter to heads of state urging them to defend the family 'as a precious treasure . . . many different threats are assailing the family at the very roots of its existence. On this day of joy and light . . . may the culture of death recoil - that culture which humiliates the individual, not respecting the weakest and frailest creatures and trying to undermine the sacred dignity of the family'. The words 'weakest and frailest' were one of several references by the Pope to abortion.
The rain meant fewer people than usual attended the 73-year-old Polish pontiff's address, traditionally delivered at Easter and Christmas. Several hundred thousand have packed the square in the past.
The Pope wished the world a happy Easter in 57 languages, including Hebrew, Arabic, Tamil, Urdu, Chinese, Vietnamese, languages spoken in former Yugoslavia, and Esperanto. He said a Mass from under a white canopy to protect him from the rain, and referred to conflicts in the Middle East, the Balkans, the Caucasus, Africa and Asia.
'May this proclamation of peace inspire all those in the wealthy societies who are trying to give a meaning to life,' he said.