Pope Francis called for an end to all wars as he prayed for victims of violence and conflict, shortly after slamming Europe’s indifference to migrants.
In his Easter message, the Holy Father called on warring groups in Syria to negotiate their way to peace and for the international community to support peace initiatives.
“Comfort those who have left their own lands to migrate to places offering hope for a better future and the possibility of living their lives in dignity and, not infrequently, of freely professing their faith,” the Pope said.
“We ask you, Lord Jesus, to put an end to all war and every conflict, whether great or small, ancient or recent. We pray in a particular way for Syria, beloved Syria, that all those suffering the effects of the conflict can receive needed humanitarian aid and that neither side will again use deadly force, especially against the defenseless civil population, but instead boldly negotiate the peace long awaited and long overdue,” he added.
The Pope also included victims of the Ebola epidemic in his prayers, as well as those suffering from hunger “aggravated by conflicts and by the immense wastefulness for which we are often responsible.”
“Enable us to care for our brothers and sisters struck by the Ebola epidemic in Guinea Conakry, Sierra Leone and Liberia, and to care for those suffering from so many other diseases which are also spread through neglect and dire poverty,” he said.
“Jesus, Lord of glory, we ask you to comfort the victims of fratricidal acts of violence in Iraq and to sustain the hopes raised by the resumption of negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. We beg for an end to the conflicts in the Central African Republic and a halt to the brutal terrorist attacks in parts of Nigeria and the acts of violence in South Sudan. We ask that hearts be turned to reconciliation and fraternal concord in Venezuela, we ask you to enlighten and inspire the initiatives that promote peace in Ukraine so that all those involved, with the support of the international community, will make every effort to prevent violence and, in a spirit of unity and dialogue, chart a path for the country’s future,” he said.
The pope noted that Christ’s resurrection shows the power of love.
“In Jesus, love has triumphed over hatred, mercy over sinfulness, goodness over evil, truth over falsehood, life over death…Love is more powerful, love gives life, love makes hope blossom in the wilderness.”
In his Good Friday prayers, the Pope decried what he called Europe’s “indifferent and anaesthetized conscience” over migrants and also slammed pedophile priests, arms dealers and fundamentalists.
Tens of thousands of Catholic faithful gathered for the service, many clutching candles in the imposing surrounds of the city’s famous Colosseum, where thousands of Christians are believed to have been killed in Roman times.
“O Cross of Christ, today we see you in the Mediterranean and Aegean Seas which have become insatiable cemeteries, reflections of our indifferent and anaesthetized conscience,” the 79-year old pontiff said, referring to the thousands who set off in unseaworthy boats to reach Greece and the rest of Europe.
Francis has long called for the global community to open its doors to refugees and fight xenophobia — appeals which have intensified since a controversial deal between Europe and Turkey to expel migrants arriving in Greece.
The Argentine pope did not spare his own Church, fiercely denouncing pedophile priests whom he described as those “unfaithful ministers who, instead of stripping themselves of their own vain ambitions, divest even the innocent of their dignity.”
The Roman Catholic Church continues to be dogged by cases of predatory priests and past cover-ups. Just this month a French cardinal faced calls to resign over allegations he promoted a cleric who had a previous conviction for sexual abuse.
In the wake of this week’s deadly attacks in Brussels, Francis slammed “terrorist acts committed by followers of some religions which profane the name of God and which use the holy name to justify their unprecedented violence.”
The pope added it was “arms dealers who feed the cauldron of war with the innocent blood of our brothers and sisters” and raged against “traitors who, for thirty pieces of silver, would consign anyone to death”.
‘Egotistical and hypocritical society’
Francis also evoked the expressions on the faces of children fleeing war “who often only find death and many Pilates who wash their hands” — a reference to Pontius Pilate, who, according to Christian tradition, said he was bowing to public demand in ordering Jesus’s crucifixion, in a bid to shrug off personal responsibility.
In his wide-ranging diatribe, the head of the Roman Catholic Church lashed out at persecutors of Christians in particular, lamenting “our sisters and brothers killed, burned alive, throats slit and decapitated by barbarous blades amid cowardly silence”.
He also turned a steely gaze on Western cultures, talking of “our egotistical and hypocritical society,” which casts off the elderly and disabled and lets its children starve.
“Where is God in the extermination camps? Where is God in the mines and factories where children work as slaves? Where is God in makeshift boats that sink in the sea?” he said in reference to the migrant vessels and the many who have drowned.
On Saturday, the pontiff took part in an evening Easter vigil in St Peter’s Basilica, before celebrating Easter mass on Sunday and pronouncing the traditional “Urbi et Orbi” blessing to the world.