Pope Francis waves as he leaves at the end of the Easter mass in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican March 31, 2013.

The newly elected pope Francis I called for peace in war-torn regions of the world in his first Easter Sunday address to tens of thousands of pilgrims in St Peter's Square, Rome.

Shortly after leading mass on a promenade bedecked with spring flowers, the 76-year-old pontiff delivered his Urbi et Orbi address to the city of Rome and to the world.

"Christ has risen! What a joy it is for me to announce this message... I would like it to go out to every house and every family, especially where the suffering is greatest, in hospitals, in prisons," he declared.

"We ask the risen Jesus, who turns death into life, to change hatred into love, vengeance into forgiveness, war into peace."

The pope then called for an end to conflict across the globe, including the ongoing civil war in Syria and in the Far East, amidst increasingly belligerent language from North Korea.

"Peace for the Middle East, and particularly between Israelis and Palestinians, who struggle to find the road of agreement, that they may willingly and courageously resume negotiations to end a conflict that has lasted all too long.

"Peace in Iraq, that every act of violence may end, and above all for dear Syria, for its people torn by conflict and for the many refugees who await help and comfort."

For Africa, the Pope spoke of Mali, Nigeria - "where attacks sadly continue" - the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic.

"Peace in Asia, above all on the Korean peninsula: may disagreements be overcome and a renewed spirit of reconciliation grow," he added.

Pope Francis concluded by saying: "Peace in the whole world, still divided by greed looking for easy gain, wounded by the selfishness which threatens human life and the family, selfishness that continues in human trafficking, the most extensive form of slavery in this 21st Century."

Easter is the most important festival in the Christian calendar, and marks the resurrection of Jesus following his crucifixion.

On Saturday 30 March he presided over Easter vigil mass in St Peter's Basilica, with the church plunged into darkness at the beginning of the ceremony to represent the darkness in Jesus' tomb where he lay for three days after his crucifixion.

More than 10,000 pilgrims then lit candles as Francis walked up the main aisle.

In a much shorter ceremony than those favoured by his predecessor, Benedict XVI, Francis appealed to non-believers and lapsed Catholics to step forward towards God.

"Let the risen Jesus enter your life, welcome him as a friend, with trust: he is life! If until now you have kept him at a distance, step forward," Pope Francis said.

"He will receive you with open arms."

Commentators have remarked on the simplicity and directness Francis has brought to the office.

He regularly eschews the elaborate robes and formalities of the papacy, wearing a simple white cassock and living in a guesthouse, rather than grand Vatican apartments.

On Easter Thursday mass at a youth detention centre he kissed the feet of 12 people, including a Serbian Muslim woman, in another break with protocol.

In the following day's Good Friday procession Francis, formerly Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, spoke of the "friendship of our Muslim brothers and sisters" in the Middle East.