Pope Francis decries the persecution of Christians in Easter message

Tens of thousands of Christians braved a pelting rain in the Vatican's St. Peter's Square to celebrate mass with Pope Francis and listen to the traditional Easter message.

It was a mostly downbeat message, with the pope making specific reference to the persecution of Christians around the world.

Voice of America:

Francis, after saying Mass for thousands of people in a rainy St. Peter's Square, delivered a mostly sombre and grim "Urbi et Orbi" (to the city and the world) message.

Attacks on Christians in Africa and the Middle East have been the grim backdrop of all Holy Week ceremonies leading up to Easter.

"We ask Jesus, the victor over death, to lighten the sufferings of our many brothers and sisters who are persecuted for his name, and of all those who suffer injustice as a result of ongoing conflicts and violence - and there are many," he said.

The pope spoke as churches in Kenya, where al-Shabab gunmen massacred nearly 150 people, singling out Christians for point-blank executions, turned to armed guards to protect their congregations on the most important day of the Christian liturgical year.

"May constant prayer rise up from all people of goodwill for those who lost their lives - I think in particular of the young people who were killed last Thursday at Garissa University College in Kenya - for all who have been kidnapped, and for those forced to abandon their homes and their dear ones," Francis said.

The 78-year-old Argentine pope, celebrating the third Easter of his pontificate, spoke from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica after saying a Mass below for tens of thousands of people wearing plastic ponchos and holding umbrellas against the driving rain.

Calling for peace in Libya, where last February, Islamic State militants beheaded 22 Egyptian Coptic Christians, the pope called for an end to "the present absurd bloodshed and all barbarous acts of violence."

In his sympathy call to the president of Kenya following the massacre of 147 students and faculty at a Christian university, the president never referred to the faith of the victims, despite the fact that they were targeted by Islamic terrorists just for that reason. And the west in general has largely remained silent about the targeting of Christians by Islamic State in Libya, Iraq, and Syria. 

So the pope's allusions to Christians being persecuted for their faith is welcome, although not mentioning who is doing the persecuting rankles. These Christians aren't being murdered by Scientologists or Jews. They're being killed by Muslims. It cheapens the sacrifice of the martyrs when the motive behind their deaths is hidden by a misguided belief in political correctness.

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