05 April 2015
Hannah Roberts in Rome
Francis highlights 'barbarous violence' against Christians
Pope Francis used his Easter message to decry the persecution of Christians as he made an impassioned appeal for peace in the Middle East and other war-torn regions.
In his Urbi et Orbi (to the city and the world) blessing to some 50,000 pilgrims braving the rain in St Peter’s Square, he called for an end to violent attacks on Christians and expressed his solidarity to the families of the students massacred by Islamist militants at Garissa University in Kenya.
The Pope denounced "absurd bloodshed" and "barbarous acts of violence" committed by militant groups such as ISIS, saying: ‘We ask Jesus, the Victor over death, to lighten the sufferings of our many brothers and sisters who are persecuted for his name, and of all those who suffer injustice as a result of ongoing conflicts and violence. There are so many of them."
He said that humanity and especially Christians should not succumb to the pressure of worldly competition which causes some to employ violence to gain territory and wealth.
He said: "The world proposes that we put ourselves forward at all costs, that we compete, that we prevail." But Christians he said "are the seeds of another humanity, in which we seek to live in service to one another."
He added: "This is not weakness, but true strength. We ask today the grace not to succumb to the pride which fuels violence and war, but to have the humble courage of pardon and peace."
The Argentine pope focussed on the conflicts across the Middle East asking that peace be restored in the Holy Land and that in Syria and Iraq "the roar of arms may cease and that peaceful relations may be restored among the various groups which make up those beloved countries."
He called on the international community to "not stand by before the immense humanitarian tragedy unfolding in these countries and the drama of the numerous refugees."
The 78-year old pope looked visibly wearied by the weight of his serious message. Last week doctors expressed concerns over his health saying he needs to lose weight, take more exercise and abstain from his daily bowl of pasta, according to reports in the Italian media.
Francis, who rises at 4.30 am and never takes holidays, finally admitted to tiredness this week during his homily for the Chrism Mass on Wednesday.
Today Francis also "implored peace" for Libya, Yemen, Nigeria, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo as well as for Ukraine and praised the nuclear deal signed with Iran this week.
He also made reference to the killings on Thursday of 148 students at Garissa University College in Kenya, saying: "May constant prayer rise up from all people of goodwill for those who lost their lives (students)...and for those who have been kidnapped and for those forced to abandon their homes and their dear ones."
On Good Friday the Pope had stuck to the same message denounced what he called the "complicit silence" of the international community about the killing of Christians.
At an evening, torch-lit ceremony at the Colosseum he recalled the death of Jesus by crucifixion. He prayed ‘We see, even today, our brothers persecuted, beheaded and crucified, for their faith in you, in front of our eyes or often with our complicit silence."
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