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Pope Francis

Pope Francis denounces ‘oppressive regimes’ but urges restraint in Easter message

Francis spoke hours after North Korea warned the United States to end its “military hysteria” or face retaliation

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 16 April, 2017, 10:12pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 16 April, 2017, 10:20pm

Pope Francis denounced “oppressive regimes” in his Easter message but in an apparent call for restraint urged world leaders to prevent the spread of conflicts, as tensions rose in North Korea and Syria.

Francis, marking the fifth Easter season of his pontificate, said mass before tens of ­thousands of people under ­exceptional security measures in St Peter’s Square following recent vehicle attacks against pedestrians in London and Stockholm.

More police vans and army vehicles than usual were ­positioned at the entrances to the Vatican area and the faithful were stopped at several checkpoints leading into the square, which was decorated with 35,000 flowers and trees.

In his message, delivered from the central balcony of St Peter’s Basilica, Francis spoke of a world lacerated by conflicts and laced with tensions.

From the same balcony from where he first appeared to the world on the night of his election in 2013, Francis spoke of God walking “beside all those forced to leave their homelands as a result of armed conflicts, terrorist attacks, famine and oppressive ­regimes”. He did not name any specific governments.

“In the complex and often dramatic situations of today’s world, may the risen lord guide the steps of all those who work for justice and peace. May he grant the ­leaders of nations the courage they need to prevent the spread of conflicts and to put a halt to the arms trade,” he said.

Francis spoke hours after North Korea warned the United States to end its “military hysteria” or face retaliation as a US aircraft carrier group steamed towards the region and the reclusive state marked the 105th birth anniversary of its founding father.

Concern has grown since the US navy fired 59 Tomahawk missiles at a Syrian airfield last week in response to a deadly gas attack. That raised questions about US President Donald Trump’s plans for North Korea, which has conducted missile and nuclear tests in defiance of sanctions.

Francis also condemned the bomb blast on a crowded Syrian bus convoy that killed at least 112 people outside Aleppo as an “ignoble” attack, asking God to bring healing and comfort to the civilian population in what he called the “beloved and martyred Syria”.