Pope Francis tempered his Easter Sunday message of Christian hope with a denunciation of “blind” terrorism, recalling victims of attacks in Europe, Africa and elsewhere, as well as expressing dismay that people fleeing war or poverty are being denied a welcome as European countries squabble over the refugee crisis.
Tens of thousands of people patiently endured long lines, backpack inspections and metal-detecting checks to enter St Peter’s Square. Under a brilliant sun, they listened to Francis deliver the traditional noon Easter speech from the central balcony of St Peter’s Basilica.
To their delight, Francis completed a whirl through the square in his open-topped pope-mobile after celebrating Mass.
For years, Islamist extremists in social media have listed the Vatican and Rome as potential targets due to hosting the headquarters of the Roman Catholic church and several basilicas. Despite the threats, Francis has kept to his habit of trying to be in close physical contact with ordinary people.
At the end of Mass, he chatted briefly with the former king and queen of Belgium, Albert II and Paola, who attended the ceremony.