Pope condemns 'vile and senseless' massacre in Lahore
Pope Francis has denounced the "vile and senseless" bombing in a Pakistani park, targeting Christian families celebrating Easter, and pressed for protection for religious minorities in the largely Muslim nation.
"Easter Sunday was bloodied by an abominable attack that massacred so many innocent people, for the most part families of the Christian minority, especially women and children, gathered in a public park to joyfully pass the Easter holiday," Francis solemnly told faithful in St Peter's Square.
Later, Pakistani authorities said most of the victims identified so far were Muslim, but that Christians were also among the 70 victims.
The Pope has repeatedly spoken passionately about the suffering of Christians in the Middle East, Africa and Asia who are being targeted by Islamic extremists. Just last week, in a Good Friday service, he criticised what he called the "cowardly silence" toward the persecution and killing of Christians.
Yesterday, he pointedly called for improved security for religious minorities and asked those present to pray for the victims.
In his Easter message Pope Francis had earlier tempered his message of Christian hope with a denunciation of "blind" terrorism, recalling victims of attacks in Europe, Africa and elsewhere and expressing dismay at Europe's attitude to the plight of refugees.
Tens of thousands of people listened to Francis deliver the traditional noon Easter speech from St Peter's Basilica.
Francis toured the square, which was adorned with tulips and other spring flowers, in his open-topped 'Popemobile' after celebrating Mass on the basilica steps. He leaned over barriers to shake hands as the vehicle ventured past the Vatican's confines, his bodyguards jogging alongside.