.- Pope Francis on Monday mourned the loss of life in Pakistan, where more than 70 people – mostly women and children – were killed Sunday after a suicide attack on Christians who were celebrating Easter at a public park.
Speaking during his Regina Caeli address for Easter Monday, the Pope expressed his “closeness to those affected by this cowardly and senseless crime,” and called those present to to pray for the victims and their loved ones.
“Easter was bloodied by an execrable attack which massacred many innocent people, mostly families of the Christian minority - particularly women and children - who had gathered in a public park to spend the Easter holiday in joy,” he said.
The attack took place in Pakistan's eastern city of Lahore. At least 29 of the dozens of people killed were children, Reuters reports. The BBC reports that at least 300 people were injured, and officials expect the death toll to rise.
The explosion struck the main gate to the Gulshan-e-Iqbal amusement park in the early evening, a short distance the children's playground and a section designated for women.
Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, a Taliban splinter group in Pakistan, has claimed responsibility for the attack, the BBC reports.
The attack is believed to have been carried out by a single suicide bomber.
Pope Francis went on to appeal to civil authorities and “all social components of the Nation” in order to restore “security and serenity to the population,” especially for religious minorities.
“I repeat once again that violence and murderous hatred only lead to pain and destruction; respect and fraternity are the only path to achieving peace,” he said.
“The Passover of the Lord arouses in us, in an ever stronger way, the prayer to God so that the hands of the violent, which sow terror and death, are stopped, and that love, justice and reconciliation may reign in the world.”
The March 27 bombing is the bloodiest attack on Christians in Pakistan since the 2013 church bombing in Peshawar where over 80 people were killed.
Earlier in his Regina Caeli address, Pope Francis reflected how the Jubilee Year of Mercy is an opportunity to rediscover the comfort and hope which comes from the announcement of Christ's resurrection.
“If Christ is risen, we can look with new eyes and hearts at every event of our lives, even to the most negative,” he said.
“The moments of darkness, of failure and sin can be transformed and announce a new journey. When we have reached the bottom of our misery and our weakness, Risen Christ gives us the strength to get up.”