Pope Francis decried what he called Europe’s “indifferent and anesthetized conscience” over migrants, during Good Friday prayers in Rome during which he also slammed pedophile priests, arms dealers and fundamentalists.
Tens of thousands of Catholic faithful gathered for the service, many clutching candles in the imposing surrounds of the city’s famous Colosseum, where thousands of Christians are believed to have been killed in Roman times.
“O Cross of Christ, today we see you in the Mediterranean and Aegean Seas which have become insatiable cemeteries, reflections of our indifferent and anesthetized conscience,” the 79-year old pontiff said, referring to the thousands who set off in unseaworthy boats to reach Greece and the rest of Europe.
Francis has long called for the global community to open its doors to refugees and fight xenophobia — appeals which have intensified since a controversial deal between Europe and Turkey to expel migrants arriving in Greece.
The Argentine pope did not spare his own Church, fiercely denouncing pedophile priests whom he described as those “unfaithful ministers who, instead of stripping themselves of their own vain ambitions, divest even the innocent of their dignity”.
The Roman Catholic Church continues to be dogged by cases of predatory priests and past cover-ups. Just this month a French cardinal faced calls to resign over allegations he promoted a cleric who had a previous conviction for sexual abuse.
In the wake of this week’s deadly attacks in Brussels, Francis slammed “terrorist acts committed by followers of some religions which profane the name of God and which use the holy name to justify their unprecedented violence”.
The pope added it was “arms dealers who feed the cauldron of war with the innocent blood of our brothers and sisters” and raged against “traitors who, for thirty pieces of silver, would consign anyone to death”.
– ‘Egotistical and hypocritical society’ –
Francis also evoked the expressions on the faces of children fleeing war “who often only find death and many Pilates who wash their hands” — a reference to Pontius Pilate, who, according to Christian tradition, said he was bowing to public demand in ordering Jesus’s crucifixion, in a bid to shrug off personal responsibility.
He also turned a steely gaze on Western cultures, talking of “our egotistical and hypocritical society”, which casts off the elderly and disabled and lets its children starve.
During the service, a small group of believers carried a cross between 14 “stations” evoking the last hours of Jesus’s life during the traditional Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) procession, amid visibly heightened security at the former gladiator battle ground.
Sitting under a red canopy next to a large cross, Francis listened earlier to a lengthy meditation written by Italian Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti, who spoke of the darkest moments of humanity, where belief in God is most deeply shaken.
“Where is God in the extermination camps? Where is God in the mines and factories where children work as slaves? Where is God in makeshift boats that sink in the sea?”, he said in reference to the migrant vessels and the many who have drowned.
Good Friday is the second of four intensive days in the Christian calendar culminating in Easter Sunday, commemorating Christ’s resurrection.
On Saturday, the pontiff will take part in an evening Easter vigil in St Peter’s Basilica, before celebrating Easter mass on Sunday and pronouncing the traditional “Urbi et Orbi” blessing to the world.
GOP in a panic about what to do with Steve King as Democrats can’t wait to face him in the election
On Saturday, MSNBC's Garrett Haake broke down the nightmare situation Republicans are facing with Rep. Steve King (R-IA), who has faced outrage for years of white supremacist comments, and more recently suggested that rape and incest might be a good thing for society.
"What more recourse do Republicans have?" said host David Gura. "We had this cycle of condemnation in the past after comments were made. He was stripped of committee assignments. Is there more Republicans can do vis-a-vis Steve King?"
Trump’s economic advisers baffled over how to hold off recession that his trade war set it in motion: report
According to a report from ABC, Donald Trump's economic advisers are baffled about how to stop what appears to be a recession coming before the 2020 election after his trade war upset an already teetering worldwide economy.
With the report noting that Trump had hoped to run on a strong economy as part of his 2020 re-election strategy, warnings from economists that a recession may arrive before then has White House officials in a panic.
"The financial markets signaled the possibility of a U.S. recession this week, sending a jolt of anxiety to investors, companies and consumers. That's on top of concerns over Trump's plans to impose punishing tariffs on goods from China and word from the United Kingdom and Germany that their economies are shrinking," the report states, adding, "Trump advisers fear a weakened economy would hurt him with moderate Republican and independent voters who have been willing to give him a pass on some his incendiary policies and rhetoric."
Race to remember Berlin Wall victims, 30 years on
Where guard towers and barbed wire once stood, runners pounded the 100-mile (160 kilometer) path along the former Berlin Wall this weekend in a race with victims of the Cold War relic at its heart.
On Saturday at 6:00 am (0400 GMT), around 500 runners, started the 8th edition of the Berlin Wall Race, ahead of the 30th anniversary of the Wall's demise this November.
With weary legs, most runners will jog through Saturday night, aiming to reach the city centre stadium which doubles as both start and finish, in the early hours of Sunday.
The race is part ultra-marathon, part tribute to those who died trying to cross the Wall, which the East German communist regime hastily erected in 1961 and stood for 28 years.