Faithful flock to Vatican as pope celebrates Easter Sunday

Frederick Owens
April 17, 2017

Pope Francis delivered the traditional Easter Sunday Mass sermon in Rome on Sunday with a call for an end to the "horror and death" in Syria and prayed for Jesus to help world leaders end the arms trade.

In Saint Mark's Cathedral, where Coptic Pope Tawadros II led the mass on Saturday, worshippers passed through three metal detectors as policemen and soldiers stood guard in the sprawling compound and on the streets outside.

At least 126 people, including 68 children, were killed in a bomb attack Saturday near Aleppo when a vehicle loaded with explosives hit buses transporting evacuees from mostly government-held towns.

Francis attacked the "scandalous reality of a world still marked by the divide between the endless number of indigent" and the "tiny portion of those who possess the majority of riches and presume to decide the fates of humanity".

Repeatedly during Holy Week services, Pope Francis has drawn attention to the plight of war victims, refugees and migrants.

The pope, who also spoke against terrorism and corruption, expressed hope that God would send succor to the people of Syria.

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He also mentioned hostilities and starvation plaguing parts of Africa.

Of the social and political upheaval in Europe, Francis prayed for God's blessing on "those experiencing moments of crisis and difficulty, especially due to high unemployment, particularly among young people".

Traditionally, the pope gives no homily during the late-morning Easter Mass, saving his reflections for the "Urbi et Orbi" message at noon. But Francis addressed a concern likely on the minds of many Catholics on this religious holiday as they witness what seems like daily images of war, terrorism and starvation in every corner of the globe: Why is tragedy so common if Jesus rose from the dead to forgive the sins of the world, the central belief behind Easter?

Potted hyacinths, tulips and daffodils, as well as bouquets of pink roses, were arranged in neat rows on the steps leading to the imposing church.

His Easter address today comes as news broke that a 90 birthday party is being planned for former pope, Benedict XV1, whose birthday is actually Easter Sunday but will instead be celebrated on Monday.

The wisdom to look beyond and say, "look there is no wall; there is a horizon, there is life, there is joy, there is the cross amidst this ambivalence".

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