Pope condemns 'complicit silence' over murder and persecution of Christians around the world

The Pope lay prostrate during the Good Friday Liturgy

Pope Francis has decried the “complicit silence” over the killing of Christians the day after at least 147 students were gunned down by Somali militants at a university in Kenya.

The pontiff condemned the murders – carried out by al-Shabaab gunmen who stormed the Garissa University College on Thursday – during a Good Friday Colosseum procession yesterday.

After reflecting upon the life and suffering of Jesus, Pope Francis spoke of the present-day persecution of Christians in parts of the Middle East and Africa in the hands of groups such as Isis, Boko Haram and al-Qaeda.

“We see, even today, our brothers persecuted, beheaded and crucified, for their faith in you, in front of our eyes or often with our complicit silence,” he said, as he prayed.

Later on in the day, Pope Francis celebrated the Lord’s Passion Liturgy in St Peter’s Basilica. The 78-year-old lay flat on the floor, with the help of a plump pillow, to pray as a gesture of humility in front of 10,000 church guests.

Earlier this year, he denounced the murder of around 21 Coptic Christians in Libya by Isis-affiliated militants in February, saying they were killed simply for being Christian.

And he claimed that Christians in parts of the Middle East have been forced to flee their communities to escape persecution.

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Pope Francis prays in front of the Colosseum during the Via Crucis torchlight procession

Al-Shabaab have threatened to make the streets of Kenya “run red with blood” after their university massacre.

“No amount of precaution or safety measures will be able to guarantee your safety, thwart another attack or prevent another bloodbath from occurring in your cities,” the statement addressed to the public said.

Among those chosen to take turns carrying the crucifix in the procession were refugees from Iraq, Syria, Nigeria, Egypt and China.

Standing under a red canopy this evening Pope Francis listened to prayers affirming the right of religious freedom while tens of thousands of partaking tourists, pilgrims and Rome residents stood outside the illuminated Colosseum holding up candles.

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