Rome — Pope Francis has lamented what he has called the "cowardly and senseless" killings of at least 70 people, mostly Christians, celebrating the Easter holiday in a public park in Pakistan on Sunday.
In a public noon-time prayer Monday in St. Peter's Square, the pontiff said Easter "was bloodied by an execrable attack that slaughtered so many innocent people" and appealed anew for international efforts to foster non-violent solutions to conflicts.
"I wish to express my closeness to all those affected by this cowardly and senseless crime, and invite you to pray to the Lord for the many victims and their loved ones," the pope told crowds at the Vatican.
"I appeal to the civil authorities and all the social components of that nation that they may carry out efforts to renew security and serenity to the population and, in particular, to the most vulnerable religious minorities," said Francis.
"I repeat again anew that violence and homicidal hate bring only sadness and destruction; respect and fraternity is the only way to reach peace," he said.
"May the Easter of the Lord create in us, in a stronger way, the prayer that God may stop the hands of the violent, who sew terror and death, and that the world may have the reign of love, justice, and reconciliation," he continued.
Francis was speaking Monday after praying the traditional Regina Coeli prayer. He was referring to a massive suicide bombing in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore Sunday, which killed at least 70 and injured about 300 gathered at a public park on a normally festive day.
Local reports indicate that many women and children were killed in the bombing, underscoring the danger that religious minorities continue to live in the country.
Before saying the prayer Monday, Francis reflected on the meaning of the Easter holiday, saying Christ's resurrection indicates that "mercy and love have won over sin" and "we need faith and hope to open ourselves to this new and marvelous horizon."
"In this Jubilee year we are called to rediscover and welcome with particular intensity the comforting announcement of the resurrection: 'Christ, my hope, is risen!'" said the pope.
"If Christ has come back to life, we can look with new eyes and hearts to every event of our lives, even those most negative," he said. "Moments of darkness, of failing, and of sin may be transformed and given a new beginning."
"When we have touched the bottom of our misery and our weakness, the risen Christ gives us the strength to pick ourselves up," said Francis. "If we trust in him, his grace, he saves us."
"The crucified and risen Lord is the full revelation of mercy, present and working in history," said the pontiff. "This is the Easter message that resounds still today and that will resound for all of Easter until Pentecost."