VATICAN CITY — On Christianity’s most joyful day, Pope Francis lamented the horrors generated by war and hatred, delivering an Easter Sunday message that also 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 “Urbi et Orbi” Easter message delivered from the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica, Francis reflected on a litany of suffering in the world, including wars, oppressive regimes, human trafficking, corruption, famine and domestic violence.
He encouraged people to hold fast in their “fearful hearts” to faith, acknowledging that many people wonder where God is amid so much evil and suffering in the world.
Some 60,000 people, including multinational throngs of pilgrims and tourists, endured tight anti-terrorism security checks – and, later, a brief downpour – to hear Francis and receive his blessing.
The crowd size, cited by the Vatican security forces, was smaller in comparison to some other Easters, when about 100,000 turned out for the occasion.
After Mass, Francis toured the square in his open-topped, white popemobile and waved back to well-wishers.
In his balcony address, 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 cited the explosion Saturday that ripped through a bus depot in the Aleppo area where evacuees were awaiting transfer, killing at least 100 people.
“Yesterday saw the latest vile attack on fleeing refugees,” the pope said, also praying for peace in the Holy Land, Iraq and Yemen.