Easter 2016: Pope Francis Denounces Terrorism In Easter Sunday Message Amidst Heaviest Security Ever

Pope Francis used his Easter 2016 message to denounce terrorism, as he spoke to the crowd of thousands of people who gathered to hear him speak.

The message of Easter is a message of rebirth the pope said, one that could “draw us closer to the victims of terrorism, a blind and brutal form of violence.”

The pope delivered his message from the balcony of St Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican and also spoke about the extreme difficulties faced by refugees fleeing war and economic distress, USA Today reports.

“This day invites us not to forget those men and women seeking a better future, an ever more numerous throng of migrants and refugees, including many children, fleeing war, hunger, poverty and social injustice,” the pontiff said.

Security was tight at the Vatican while the Pope delivered his Easter message. Members of the crowd had their bags searched by guards. The Vatican has been repeatedly threatened with attacks which, according to USA Today, has encouraged the Pope to reach out to people of other faiths.

On Good Friday, the Pope washed the feet of migrants who were Christian, Hindu, and Muslim. As NPR noted at the time, previous popes have typically washed the feet of Catholic men who were normally priests.

“We have different cultures and religions, but we are brothers and we want to live in peace,” The Pope said on Thursday further confirming an egalitarian stance that often shocks Catholic traditionalists.

“One of the pope’s main messages boils down to the belief that we are all brothers,” Franca Giansoldati, a Vatican scholar from Italy’s Il Messaggero newspaper, said in an interview. “Francis’ political messages are always tied to the pastoral role he takes. He speaks as a pastor, not as a pope or a head of state.”

The Daily Mail reports that there were claims that the same terrorists who were responsible for the terrorist attacks in Brussels may have also targeted the Easter services at The Vatican. This may even have been the first target that the terrorists planned to strike before they decided to hit Brussels.

This isn’t the first time that the Islamic State has explicitly threatened the Vatican, according to the Daily Mail. Last year, a website run by militants affiliated with ISIL posted a photo showing their flag flying from the obelisk in St Peter’s Square.

“May he [the risen Jesus] draw us closer on this Easter feast to the victims of terrorism, that blind and brutal form of violence which continues to shed blood in different parts of the world,” the Pope said.

The Pope specifically mentioned the attacks in Brussels, which killed 31 people, but also referenced people who have been killed in Turkey, Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, and Iraq. “With the weapons of love, God has defeated selfishness and death,” Pope Francis continued.

In his address, Francis also said that he hoped the recent talks in Syria would succeed in stabilizing the region and put a stop to the “sad wake of destruction, death, contempt for humanitarian law and the breakdown of civil concord.” He also expressed hope that the peace would be found between Israelis and Palestinians and in other parts of the world, like Yemen, Iraq, Libya, Burundi, Mozambique, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan, and Ukraine.

The former King and Queen of Belgium, Albert II and Paolo, who is Italian, were at the Vatican’s Easter service, and Pope Francis greeted them afterwards.

Though there were fears of security risks, the pope also greeted the crowds of the assembled pilgrims from his Popemobile.

[Photo by Pfilipo Monteforte/AFP/Getty Images]