Pope: Easter message brings hope to victims of terrorism, persecution

Pope Francis delivers Urbi et Orbi blessing at St Peters Basilica on March 27, 2016. Credit: Alexey Gotovsky/CNA.
Pope Francis delivers Urbi et Orbi blessing at St Peters Basilica on March 27, 2016. Credit: Alexey Gotovsky/CNA.

.- In his Urbi et Orbi message for Easter, Pope Francis encouraged victims of terrorism and Christian persecution to find hope in the Lord’s resurrection.

By rising from the dead, Jesus has “triumphed over evil and sin,” the Pope said to the crowds which filled St. Peter’s Square. “May he draw us closer on this Easter feast to the victims of terrorism, that blind and brutal form of violence which continues to shed blood in different parts of the world.”

The pontiff cited the March 22 attack in Brussels, where suicide bombers killed more than 30 people and injured hundreds of others, and other terrorism-afflicted nations.

“With the weapons of love, God has defeated selfishness and death. His son Jesus is the door of mercy wide open to all.”

Speaking on persecuted Christians, Francis encouraged them to find comfort in Christ’s resurrection.

“Along with our brothers and sisters persecuted for their faith and their fidelity to the name of Christ, and before the evil that seems to have the upper hand in the life of so many people, let us hear once again the comforting words of the Lord: ‘Take courage; I have conquered the world!’ (Jn 16:33).”

Francis delivered the traditional Urbi et Orbi address from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica to an estimated 70,000 people after celebrating Easter Mass in the square.

“Before the spiritual and moral abysses of mankind, before the chasms that open up in hearts and provoke hatred and death, only an infinite mercy can bring us salvation,” he said.

After having suffered and died, Jesus’ resurrection “makes us sharers in his immortal life,” while enabling “us to see with his eyes of love and compassion those who hunger and thirst, strangers and prisoners, the marginalized and the outcast, the victims of oppression and violence.”

Pope Francis spoke of the “indescribable suffering” experienced daily throughout the world brought about by “brutal crimes,” whether they take place in homes or through “large-scale armed conflicts.”

He spoke of the long-term conflict in Syria which has left a “wake of destruction, death, contempt for humanitarian law and the breakdown of civil concord.”

“To the power of the risen Lord we entrust the talks now in course, that good will and the cooperation of all will bear fruit in peace and initiate the building of a fraternal society respectful of the dignity and rights of each citizen.”

Francis remembered the crises in other Mediterranean and Middle East regions, including the Holy Land.

Referring to ongoing tensions between Israelis and Palestinians, the Pope prayed for concord, “patience, openness and daily commitment to laying the foundations of a just and lasting peace through direct and sincere negotiations.”

He also addressed the Ukraine war, praying for humanitarian initiatives in the country.

Praying also for “the seeds of hope and prospects for peace in Africa,” Francis recalled the “political and social tensions” in countries such as Burundi, Mozambique, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan.

“With the weapons of love, God has defeated selfishness and death. His son Jesus is the door of mercy wide open to all.”

The Pope remembered the “beloved people of Venezuela,” and the “difficult conditions” they are facing. He called those “responsible for the country’s future to work for the common good,” and to seek “dialogue and cooperation.”

“May efforts be made everywhere to promote the culture of counter, justice and reciprocal respect, which alone can guarantee the spiritual and material welfare of all people.”

Francis also prayed that the Easter message may invite us to remember the floods of migrants and refugees -- “including many children” -- who flee “war, hunger, poverty and social injustice.”

He called for the upcoming World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul to center on human dignity, and to establish policies which especially help the “most vulnerable” and those “persecuted for ethnic and religious reasons.”

Reiterating his appeal for those affected by food crises brought about by climate change, he decried the earth being “so often mistreated and greedily exploited, resulting in an alteration of natural equilibria.”

Finally, Francis prayed this Easter for all those who have lost hope, from the elderly who suffer loneliness and weakness, to young people who worry about the future.

“May this comforting message of Jesus help each of us to set out anew with greater courage to blaze trails of reconciliation with God and with all our brothers and sisters.”

Below is the full text of Pope Francis’ Easter message:

Dear brothers and sisters, Happy Easter!

Jesus Christ, the incarnation of God’s mercy, out of love for us, died on the cross, and out of love he rose again from the dead. That is why we proclaim today: Jesus is Lord!

His resurrection fulfils the prophecy of the Psalm: God’s mercy endures for ever; it never dies. We can trust him completely, and we thank him because for our sake he descended into the depths of the abyss.

Before the spiritual and moral abysses of mankind, before the chasms that open up in hearts and provoke hatred and death, only an infinite mercy can bring us salvation. Only God can fill those chasms with his love, prevent us from falling into them and help us to continue our journey together towards the land of freedom and life

The glorious Easter message, that Jesus, who was crucified is not here but risen (cf. Mt 28:5- 6), offers us the comforting assurance that the abyss of death has been bridged and, with it, all mourning, lamentation and pain (cf. Rev 21:4). The Lord, who suffered abandonment by his disciples, the burden of an unjust condemnation and shame of an ignominious death, now makes us sharers of his immortal life and enables us to see with his eyes of love and compassion those who hunger and thirst, strangers and prisoners, the marginalized and the outcast, the victims of oppression and violence. Our world is full of persons suffering in body and spirit, even as the daily news is full of stories of brutal crimes which often take place within homes, and large-scale armed conflicts which cause indescribable suffering to entire peoples.

The risen Christ points out paths of hope to beloved Syria, a country torn by a lengthy conflict, with its sad wake of destruction, death, contempt for humanitarian law and the breakdown of civil concord. To the power of the risen Lord we entrust the talks now in course, that good will and the cooperation of all will bear fruit in peace and initiate the building of a fraternal society respectful of the dignity and rights of each citizen. May the message of life, proclaimed by the Angel beside the overturned stone of the tomb, overcome hardened hearts and promote a fruitful encounter of peoples and cultures in other areas of the Mediterranean and the Middle East, particularly in Iraq, Yemen and Libya. May the image of the new man, shining on the face of Christ, favour concord between Israelis and Palestinians in the Holy Land, as well as patience, openness and daily commitment to laying the foundations of a just and lasting peace through direct and sincere negotiations. May the Lord of life also accompany efforts to attain a definitive solution to the war in Ukraine, inspiring and sustaining initiatives of humanitarian aid, including the liberation of those who are detained.

The Lord Jesus, our peace (Eph 2:14), by his resurrection triumphed over evil and sin. May he draw us closer on this Easter feast to the victims of terrorism, that blind and brutal form of violence which continues to shed blood in different parts of the world, as in the recent attacks in Belgium, Turkey, Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, and Côte d’Ivoire. May he water the seeds of hope and prospects for peace in Africa; I think in particular of Burundi, Mozambique, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan, marked by political and social tensions.

With the weapons of love, God has defeated selfishness and death. His son Jesus is the door of mercy wide open to all. May his Easter message be felt ever more powerfully by the beloved people of Venezuela in the difficult conditions which they are experiencing, and by those responsible for the country’s future, that everyone may work for the common good, seeking spaces of dialogue and cooperation with all. May efforts be made everywhere to promote the culture of counter, justice and reciprocal respect, which alone can guarantee the spiritual and material welfare of all people.

The Easter message of the risen Christ, a message of life for all humanity, echoes down the ages and invites us not to forget those men and women seeking a better future, an ever more numerous throng of migrants and refugees – including many children – fleeing from war, hunger, poverty and social injustice. All too often, these brothers and sisters of ours meet along the way with death or, in any event, rejection by those who could offer them welcome and assistance. May the forthcoming World Humanitarian Summit not fail to be centred on the human person and his or her dignity, and to come up with policies capable of assisting and protecting the victims of conflicts and other emergencies, especially those who are most vulnerable and all those persecuted for ethnic and religious reasons.

On this glorious day, “let the earth rejoice, in shining splendour” (cf. Easter Proclamation), even though it is so often mistreated and greedily exploited, resulting in an alteration of natural equilibria. I think especially of those areas affected by climate change, which not infrequently causes drought or violent flooding, which then lead to food crises in different parts of the world.

Along with our brothers and sisters persecuted for their faith and their fidelity to the name of Christ, and before the evil that seems to have the upper hand in the life of so many people, let us hear once again the comforting words of the Lord: “Take courage; I have conquered the world! (Jn 16:33). Today is the radiant day of this victory, for Christ has trampled death and destruction underfoot. By his resurrection he has brought life and immortality to light (cf. 2 Tim 1:10). “He has made us pass from enslavement to freedom, from sadness to joy, from mourning to jubilation, from darkness to light, from slavery to redemption. Therefore let us acclaim in his presence: Alleluia!” (Melito of Sardis, Easter Homily).

To those in our society who have lost all hope and joy in life, to the elderly who struggle alone and feel their strength waning, to young people who seem to have no future, to all I once more address the words of the Risen One: “See, I am making all things new… To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life” (Rev 21:5-6). May this comforting message of Jesus help each of us to set out anew with greater courage to blaze trails of reconciliation with God and with all our brothers and sisters.

Tags: Terrorism, Pope Francis, Easter, Urbi et Orbi, Christian persecution, Brussels

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