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Asia Today ISSN 1861-4604 Monday, September 25, 2017

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Pope Francis decries vile attack in Syria in Easter Sunday message as millions of Christians worldwide pray for peace

Traditional Easter services

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ROME, Italy - With the Orthodox Christian Church and the Catholic Church celebrating Easter on the same day this year, Christianity’s most joyful day was gripped with a certain grief in many parts of the world.> BNN

In his “Urbi et Orbi” ("To the City and the World") message from St Peter's Basilica, Pope Francis lamented the horrors generated by war and hatred.

In his Easter Sunday message, Francis decried the "latest vile" attack on civilians in Syria, both in his impromptu homily during Mass in St. Peter's Square and later in his formal Easter message delivered from the balcony of St. Peter's Basilica.

About 60,000 pilgrims and tourists from different parts of the world were put through tight anti-terrorism security checks battled the rain, to hear Francis and receive his blessing.

The Vatican security forces said the crowd size was smaller in comparison to some other Easters, when about 100,000 turned out for the occasion.

Francis spoke about the suffering in the world caused by wars, oppressive regimes, human trafficking, corruption, famine and domestic violence.

He acknowledged that many people wonder where God is amid so much evil and suffering in the world and encouraged people to have faith.

Francis prayed that God would sustain those working to comfort and help the civilian population in Syria, "prey to a war that continues to sow horror and death."

He even spoke about the explosion that struck evacuees’ buses in Aleppo on Saturday and said, “Yesterday saw the latest vile attack on fleeing refugees."

He prayed for peace in the Holy Land, Iraq and Yemen. 

He even spoke of problems gripping Europe and cited the continued conflict and bloodshed in Ukraine. He prayed for hope for those struggling with high unemployment, especially young people.

Francis said having faith on Easter gives sense in the middle of "so many calamities: the sense of looking beyond, the sense of saying, look, there isn't a wall, there's a horizon, there's life, there's joy."

Francis even toured the square in his open-topped, white popemobile after the Mass.

Egypt's Coptic Christians gather for Easter Mass amid security

Easter was also marked in Coptic churches as Egypt's Coptic Christians headed to Easter Mass services amid tight security, merely days after ISIS led two church bombings that killed 45 people on Palm Sunday.

Traditional Easter services were held across the country on Saturday by members of Egypt's Christian minority.

Coptic Christian Pope Tawadros II was surrounded by several security agents as he entered St. Mark's Cathedral in Cairo, where he led the mass. 

Three metal detectors were placed at the entrance of the St. Mark's Cathedral and solemn worshippers were guarded by soldiers and policemen.

The attack shook Egypt’s Coptic community, on Palm Sunday, the Sunday before Easter, that marks the start of the Holy Week for Christians. 

The grief-struck community was drowned in despair after 

The attacks claimed by the Islamic State Militant Group, shook northern Egypt on Sunday.
78 people were injured and more than 27 killed at the St. George (Mar Girgis) Coptic church in the Egyptian city of Tanta as they gathered to celebrate Palm Sunday.

Hours later, a suicide bomber blew himself up at the gates of the main Coptic church in Alexandria, St. Mark’s Cathedral, as the Coptic patriarch, Pope Tawadros II, led a Palm Sunday service inside.

Over 17 people were killed and 48 others were injured in the attack.

The Islamic State militant group had claimed the attacks in a statement vowing to continue targeting the country's Coptic Christian community.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi called for the country to come together in the wake of the bombings and declared a three-month state of emergency in the country.

Rafiq Bishry, head of the organizational committee for St. Mark's Cathedral in Alexandria said in a statement that he was surprised that so many people had come to the services despite the security risks.

He was quoted as saying in a Reuters report, “This is a clear message to the whole world that we are not afraid.”

Earlier Egypt's Interior Ministry had announced that there would be heightened security measures and a 400 meter security cordons would be placed around churches. 

Bomb squads scanned churches around the country on Saturday.

Pope Tawadros had announced in his Good Friday message that the celebratory aspects of Easter would be cancelled this year in mourning for the victims of the church bombings.

Egypt’s Coptic Christians break a 55-day fast following Saturday's mass.

Coptic Christians, one of the oldest Christian communities in the Middle East, make up about 10 percent of Egypt's population of 91 million. 

Meanwhile, in Iraq, Christian villages outside Mosul that have been freed from militants remained abandoned. 

Armed guards patrol outside churches in Syria and Jordan, even though scared worshippers stayed home.

The Easter celebration in Russia witnessed several worshippers gathered at Moscow’s Christ the Savior Cathedral, where Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill conducted the Easter service. 

The Patriarchal service was attended by Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev with his wife Svetlana.

Millions of Russians viewed the service live on Russia’s main state TV channels.

The Holy Week that culminates with the celebration of Easter Sunday, recalls Jesus Christ’s rejection and journey down the “via dolorosa,” the sorrowful road, on the way to crucifixion. 

 

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