Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

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April 20, 2014

Pope Francis, huge crowd joyously celebrate Easter

(Continued)

Christians make up about 5 percent of Syria's population. In comments to mark Easter there, the Greek Orthodox patriarch vowed that Christians there "will not submit" to extremists who attack "our people and holy places."

Francis makes a pilgrimage to Jordan, the Palestinian territories and Israel next month, so on Easter he prayed that hopes sparked by the resumption of Mideast peace negotiations will be sustained.

Thousands of pilgrims from around the world flocked to the celebrate Easter in the Holy Land, where Christian communities, as well as elsewhere in the Middle East, have been declining as the faithful flee regional turmoil.

Francis also spoke of those suffering in Africa from an epidemic of deadly Ebola and urged a halt to "brutal terrorist attacks" in parts of Nigeria.

Nigerians marked Easter with heightened security against a spreading Islamic uprising, mourning the deaths of 75 bomb blast victims and fearful of the fate of 85 abducted schoolgirls. The homegrown terror network Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for last week's rush-hour explosion in the capital, Abuja, and threatened more attacks.

In Venezuela, there have been hopes Vatican mediation can help end the country's violent political unrest, and Francis urged that "hearts be turned to reconciliation and fraternal concord" there.

But Francis' Easter message also urged people to pay attention to the needy close to home. He said the "good news" of Easter's joy means "leaving ourselves behind and encountering others, being close to those crushed by life's troubles, sharing with the needy, standing at the side of the sick, elderly and the outcast."

He denounced the "scourge of hunger," which he said was "aggravated by conflicts and by the immense wastefulness for which we are often responsible."

Francis has set an austere tone in his papacy, forsaking an ornate apostolic palace apartment for a simple guesthouse on the Vatican grounds and rejecting limousines for regular cars.

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