Pope Francis decried what he called Europe’s “indifferent and anesthetized conscience” over refugees during Good Friday prayers in Rome, during which he also slammed pedophile priests, arms dealers and fundamentalists.
Tens of thousands of Catholic faithful gathered for the service, many clutching candles in the imposing surrounds of the city’s famous Colosseum, where thousands of Christians are believed to have been killed in Roman times.
“O Cross of Christ, today we see you in the Mediterranean and Aegean Seas, which have become insatiable cemeteries, reflections of our indifferent and anesthetized conscience,” the 79-year old pontiff said, referring to the thousands who set off in unseaworthy boats to reach Greece and the rest of Europe.
Francis has long called for the global community to open its doors to refugees and fight xenophobia — appeals which have intensified since a controversial deal between Europe and Turkey to expel migrants arriving in Greece.
The Argentine pope did not spare his own church, fiercely denouncing pedophile priests whom he described as those “unfaithful ministers who, instead of stripping themselves of their own vain ambitions, divest even the innocent of their dignity.”
The Roman Catholic Church continues to be dogged by cases of predatory priests and past cover-ups. Just this month, a French cardinal faced calls to resign over allegations he promoted a cleric who had a previous conviction for sexual abuse.
In the wake of this week’s deadly attacks in Brussels, Francis slammed “terrorist acts committed by followers of some religions, which profane the name of God and which use the holy name to justify their unprecedented violence.”
The pope added it was “arms dealers who feed the cauldron of war with the innocent blood of our brothers and sisters” and raged against “traitors who, for thirty pieces of silver, would consign anyone to death.”
Francis also evoked the expressions on the faces of children fleeing war “who often only find death and many Pilates who wash their hands” — a reference to Pontius Pilate, who, according to Christian tradition, said he was bowing to public demand in ordering Jesus’s crucifixion, in a bid to shrug off personal responsibility.
In his wide-ranging diatribe, the head of the Roman Catholic Church lashed out at persecutors of Christians in particular, lamenting “our sisters and brothers killed, burned alive, throats slit and decapitated by barbarous blades amid cowardly silence.”
He also turned a steely gaze on Western cultures, talking of “our egotistical and hypocritical society,” which casts off the elderly and disabled and lets its children starve.
During the service, a small group of believers carried a cross between 14 “stations” evoking the last hours of Jesus’s life during the traditional Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) procession, amid visibly heightened security at the former gladiator battleground.
Sitting under a red canopy next to a large cross, Francis listened earlier to a lengthy meditation written by Italian Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti, who spoke of the darkest moments of humanity, where belief in God is most deeply shaken.
“Where is God in the extermination camps? Where is God in the mines and factories where children work as slaves? Where is God in makeshift boats that sink in the sea?” he said in reference to the migrant vessels and the many who have drowned.
Good Friday is the second of four intensive days in the Christian calendar culminating in Easter Sunday, commemorating Christ’s resurrection.
The pontiff was yesterday to take part in an evening Easter vigil in St Peter’s Basilica, before celebrating Easter mass today and pronouncing the traditional Urbi et Orbi blessing to the world.
POINT-BLANK RANGE: Reporters and camera people from several outlets say police officers in Minneapolis had fired tear gas and rubber bullets directly at them Multiple journalists on the ground in Minnesota said they were teargassed and subject to other attacks by police on Saturday evening, a day after the widely condemned arrest of a CNN reporter live on air. Los Angeles Times journalist Molly Hennessy-Fiske, who was reporting outside the Fifth Precinct in Minneapolis, said she was with a group of about a dozen journalists when the Minnesota State Patrol “fired tear gas canisters on us at point blank range.” “I was saying: ‘Where do we go?’ They did not tell us where to go. They didn’t direct us. They just fired on us,” she said
For nearly a decade, the UN Security Council has been frequently paralyzed by Russia’s obstinacy over the Syrian crisis. Today, however, it is the US-China rivalry that has infected a growing array of issues, according to officials and diplomats. As recently as 2017, an understanding between Washington and Beijing allowed the UN on three occasions — involving separate sets of economic sanctions — to project international unity in the face of the North Korean nuclear threat. Three years later, the COVID-19 pandemic has seen a ferocious competition erupt between the UN’s two main contributors, prompting UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on May
HISTORIC FLIGHT: The astronauts named their capsule ‘Endeavour,’ after the space shuttle on which they both flew, while Elon Musk said he was overcome with emotion Two veteran NASA astronauts headed for the International Space Station (ISS) yesterday after Elon Musk’s SpaceX on Saturday became the first commercial company to launch a rocket carrying humans into orbit, ushering in a new era in space travel. SpaceX’s two-stage Falcon 9 rocket with astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley aboard blasted off flawlessly in a cloud of bright orange flames and smoke from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, for a 19-hour voyage to the space station. “Let’s light this candle,” Hurley, the mission commander, told SpaceX mission control in Hawthorne, California, before liftoff at 3:22pm from NASA’s
INDIA Pride to be preserved The nation would not let its “pride be hurt” in its latest border flare-ups with China, but is determined to settle the dispute through talks, Minister of Defense Rajnath Singh said in a television interview late on Saturday. “Situations arise with China. It has happened before,” Singh said, adding that the government was striving to make sure “tension does not escalate.” The government has turned down US President Donald Trump’s offer to mediate, he said. IRAN Speaker says talks futile Newly elected Parliament Speaker Mohammad-Bagher Ghalibaf yesterday said that any negotiations with the US would be “futile.” The nation’s