Pope Francis, speaking to around 80,000 people at the end of his traditional Easter Sunday blessing, addressed the massacre of Christians killed in Sri Lanka.
As many as 290 people are dead as a result of the Easter Sunday terrorist attack after eight explosions ripped through high-end hotels and churches – as suspected suicide bombers blew themselves up.
Speaking from the loggia of St. Peter’s Basilica, Pope Francis expressed his grief.
The 82-year-old pontiff said, ‘I want to express my loving closeness to the Christian community, targeted while they were gathered in prayer, and all the victims of such cruel violence.’
‘I entrust to the Lord all those who were tragically killed and pray for the injured and all those who are suffering as a result of this dramatic event,’ the pope added.
At the Easter vigil, which was held yesterday afternoon, he also encouraged Christians to reject the ‘glitter of wealth’.
He said: ‘Sin seduces. It promises things easily and quickly, prosperity and success, but leaves behind only solitude and death.
‘Sin is looking for life among the dead, for the meaning of life in things that pass away.’
He went on to say: ‘Why not prefer Jesus, the true light, to the glitter of wealth, career, pride and pleasure?’
Sri Lanka’s police chief had made a nationwide alert 10 days before today’s bombings, warning that Islamic extremists planned suicide bombings at ‘prominent churches’, sources say, but it is not yet clear who is responsible for the attacks – and no one has claimed responsibility.
At the vigil, held yesterday in Vatican City, Francis also spoke about the seduction of sin, he said: ‘Do not bury hope!
‘We lose heart and come to believe that death is stronger than life.
‘We become cynical, negative and despondent.’
For Christians Easter is typically a day of joy and hope as they mark their belief that Jesus triumphed over death by resurrection following crucifixion.
Services were held all over the world including at Canterbury Cathedral in Kent, the seat of the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Archbishop Justin Welby used his message to say the resurrection of Jesus showed ‘injustice and oppression don’t have the last word’.
‘The risen Jesus is the one who makes our broken lives whole,’ the archbishop said.
He also sent his prayers to the victims of the Sri Lanka bombings, saying: ‘The will to power leads to the murder of innocents in Sri Lanka.
‘The utterly despicable destruction that on this holiest of days seeks to challenge the reality of the risen Christ.
‘To say that darkness will conquer, that our choice is surrender or death. Jesus chose to defy this darkness and he is risen indeed.’
At the start of the ceremony yesterday, Pope Francis, dressed in white robes, slowly carried a lit candle up the aisle of a darkened St Peter’s Basilica.
At the chant in Latin for ‘light of Christ’, the basilica’s lights were suddenly switched on in a dramatic tradition.
The basilica, which can hold up to 80,000 people, was filled with cardinals, diplomats, pilgrims and tourists.
Among them were eight adults who were baptised by the pope during the Mass.
The Vatican said these new faithful are from Italy, Albania, Ecuador, Indonesia and Peru.
From a shell-shaped silver dish, Pope Francis poured holy water over the bowed heads of the three men and five women, after they walked up to him, one by one, and listened to him calling their first names.
On Sunday, Pope Francis celebrates Easter Mass in the late morning in St Peter’s Square and gives a speech from the basilica balcony.
Known by its Latin name ‘Urbi et Orbi’ (to the city and to the world), the speech is an occasion to reflect on the world’s war-ravaged and other tense spots while paying tribute to Catholics’ practising their faith sometimes in the face of persecution or other difficulties.