Pope asks Pakistan government to ensure safety of Christians

IMAGE: CNS photo/Rahat Dar, EPA

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis appealed to the
government of Pakistan to take steps to ensure the safety of the country’s
Christians and other minorities the day after a terrorist bombing killed at
least 70 people and injured more than 300 who were spending Easter afternoon
in a public park.

In Lahore, Pakistan, the pope said, “Easter was
bloodied by a hideous attack, which massacred many innocent people, mostly
families belonging to the Christian minority — especially women and children
— who were in a public park joyfully celebrating the Easter holiday.”

After reciting the “Regina Coeli” prayer with
pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square March 28, the pope condemned the Lahore
attack as a “cowardly and senseless crime.” Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, a
splinter group of the Taliban, said it carried out the attack and specifically targeted
Christians celebrating Easter.

Pope Francis appealed to “the civil authorities and all
community leaders in that nation to do everything possible to ensure the
security and serenity of the population, particularly the most vulnerable
religious minorities.”

“Violence and homicidal hatred lead only to pain and
destruction; respect and brotherhood are the only paths that lead to peace,”
he said.

Before leading the crowd in reciting the “Hail
Mary” for the victims and their families, Pope Francis asked the people in
St. Peter’s Square to pray that God “would stop the hand of the violent,
who sow terror and death, and that in the world there may reign love, justice
and reconciliation.”

In his main address, and again after leading the
“Regina Coeli” prayer, the pope spoke about the importance of making
a real effort to live with the hope the Resurrection should bring.

“Life has vanquished death. Mercy and love have vanquished
sin,” the pope said.

“We know that faith and hope are a gift of God and we
must ask for it: ‘Lord, give me faith, give me hope. We need it so much,'”
he said.

Before asking people to pray for him, the pope led the crowd
in repeating three times, “Christ, my hope, is risen.”

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Follow Wooden on Twitter: @Cindy_Wooden.

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