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Pope, at Easter, recalls victims of blind, brutal terrorism

Pope Francis (left) blessing the altar during the Easter mass in St. Peter’s Square, at the Vatican…yesterday PHOTO: AP PHOTO/GREGORIO BORGIA)

Pope Francis (left) blessing the altar during the Easter mass in St. Peter’s Square, at the Vatican…yesterday<br />PHOTO: AP PHOTO/GREGORIO BORGIA)

Pope Francis tempered his Easter Sunday message of Christian hope with a denunciation of “blind” terrorism, recalling victims of attacks in Europe, Africa and elsewhere, as well as expressing dismay that people fleeing war or poverty are being denied welcome as European countries squabble over the refugee crisis.

Tens of thousands of people patiently endured long lines, backpack inspections and metal-detecting checks yesterday to enter St. Peter’s Square. Under a brilliant sun, they listened to Francis deliver the traditional noon Easter speech from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica.

To their delight, Francis completed a whirl through the square, made colorful with sprays of tulips and other spring flowers, in his open-topped pope-mobile after celebrating Mass on the steps of the basilica. He leaned over barriers to shake hands, as the vehicle ventured past the Vatican’s confines, with his bodyguards jogging alongside on the boulevard.

In Jerusalem, the cavernous Holy Sepulcher church – where Christians believe Jesus was crucified, buried and resurrected – was packed with worshippers commemorating the day they believe Jesus was resurrected in Jerusalem some 2,000 years ago.

For years, Islamist extremists in social media have listed the Vatican and Rome as potential targets due to hosting the headquarters of the Roman Catholic church and several basilicas. Despite the threats, Francis has kept to his habit of trying to be in close physical contact with ordinary people.

Francis said, for the faithful, Jesus who rose after death by crucifixion “triumphed over evil and sin.” He expressed hope that “will draw us closer to the victims of terrorism, that blind and brutal form of violence.”

At the end of Mass, he chatted briefly with the former king and queen of Belgium, Albert II and Paola, who attended the ceremony.

In his speech, Francis cited recent attacks in Belgium, Turkey, Nigeria, Chad, Cameroun, Ivory Coast and Iraq.

Separately, in a condolences telegram, the pope said he was saddened by “the great loss of life caused by the terrorist attack” during a match in an Iraqi soccer stadium Friday. That attack, claimed by Islamic State group, killed more than 40 people.

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