Both Pope Francis' Good Friday service at the Vatican and the Stations of the Cross held at the Colosseum later in the day zeroed-in on the plight of persecuted Christians around the world. “In you, Divine Love, we see again today our persecuted brethren: beheaded, crucified, for their faith in you, beneath our eyes, or often with our complicit silence,” he said in a brief reflection April 3 following the Way of the Cross. The Pope’s remarks come one day after the massacre of 147 students — mostly Christian, separated from their Muslim colleagues at the start of the attack — at Kenya’s Garissa University College at the hands of Somalian Al Shebaab gunmen. Earlier today, Pope Francis condemned “this act of senseless brutality,” in a letter of condolence to the Kenyan Bishop’s conference, praying “for a change of heart among its perpetrators.” According to the letter which was signed by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Holy Father called on authorities to increase their efforts in bringing an end to violence, promoting justice and peace. Earlier in the day, during celebrations for the Passion of Our Lord in Saint Peter’s Basilica, papal preacher Father Raniero Cantalamessa also touched on the Kenya massacre, and other recent examples of Christian persecution. Speaking also of the 21 Coptic Christians killed by ISIS last February, Fr. Cantalamessa said Christ gave them “the strength to die whispering the name of Jesus.” Pope Francis has spoken out repeatedly on Christian martyrs of today. He has stressed that there are more persecuted Christians throughout the world now than there were in the early centuries of Christianity. At the conclusion of the Way of the Cross — or Via Crucis — Pope Francis reflected on the suffering which Christ endured during His Passion. “In the cruelty of your Passion, we see the cruelty in our heart, and of our actions,” he said. “Oh Victorious Christ Crucified, your Way of the Cross is the synthesis of your life, the icon of your obedience to the will of the Father, and the realization of your infinite love for us, who are sinners.” Pope Francis also spoke of those who, like Christ during his passion, feel abandoned, “disfigured by our negligence, and our indifference.” The pontiff concluded his address by asking God to “teach us that the Cross is the Way toward the Resurrection,” and that “Good Friday is the path toward the Easter of Light.” “Teach us that God never forgets any of his children, and never tires of forgiving us and embracing us with his infinite mercy. But also teach us to never be tired of asking for forgiveness, and believing in mercy, without limit, from the Father.”
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