POPE Francis made an Easter peace wish yesterday, praising the framework nuclear agreement with Iran as an opportunity for a safer world.
At the same time, he expressed deep worry about bloodshed in Libya, Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Nigeria and elsewhere in Africa.
Cautious hope ran through Francis’ urbi et orbi Easter message, a kind of papal commentary on the state of the world’s affairs, which he delivered from the central balcony of St Peter’s Square.
He had just celebrated mass in the rain-soaked square for tens of thousands of people.
Francis made his first public comments about the recent framework for an accord, reached in Lausanne, Switzerland, and aimed at ensuring Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon.
“In hope we entrust to the merciful Lord the framework recently agreed to in Lausanne, that it may be a definitive step toward a more secure and fraternal world.” Decrying the profusion of weapons in the world in general, Francis said: “And we ask for peace for this world subjected to arms dealers, who earn their living with the blood of men and women.” He denounced “absurd bloodshed and all barbarous acts of violence” in Libya, convulsed by fighting fuelled by tribal and militia rivalries. He also hoped “a common desire for peace” would prevail in Yemen, which is currently racked by civil war.
Francis prayed that the “roar of arms may cease” in Syria and Iraq, and that peace would come in Africa for Nigeria, South Sudan, Sudan and Congo.
He recalled the young people, many of them targeted because they were Christians, killed last week in a Kenyan university, and lamented kidnappings by Islamic extremists that have plagued parts of Africa, including Nigeria.
Meanwhile, a clergyman in Scotland addressed the “cruel” effects of benefit sanctions and spending cuts in his Easter Day sermon.
The Very Rev Kelvin Holdsworth, provost of St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral in Glasgow, said government-imposed austerity measures “risk dismantling the safety nets that have taken decades to build”.
Mr Holdsworth also shared with worshippers concerns about anti-Semitism and Islamophobia in the run-up to next month’s general election.
He said: “We have known some cruel things in recent times. A cruel massacre in Kenya. A cruel plane crash in Switzerland last week. And the cruelties of rising anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and fear of foreigners being brought into play at election time.
“The election itself takes place against a background where cruel benefit sanctions have been sold to people as a positive good and austerity measures risk dismantling the safety nets that have taken decades to build.
“So many things feel cruel. So many, things feel wicked. But on Easter Day the truth I believe is that this world is neither cruel nor wicked at its core.
“This world is blessed by a God who loves it.”
The Archbishop of Canterbury said the 150 Kenyans killed last week are martyrs. Because of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, the cruel are overcome, evil is defeated, and martyrs conquer, the Most Rev Justin Welby said in his Easter Sunday sermon at Canterbury Cathedral.
The archbishop said Christians must resist without violence the persecution they suffer and support persecuted communities, with love, goodness and generosity.
In his message, published earlier last week, the head of the Church of Scotland urged Christians to become “ever more passionate” to help the world’s poorest.
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