Pope Francis slammed the “hardened hearts” of anti-immigration politicians and highlighted the plight of abused children at the start of the Catholic church’s most holy weekend of Easter.
The pope leads an Easter vigil service on Saturday night ahead of the traditional Easter Sunday message to the world.
In a prayer, Francis called on Jesus to help “us to see in your cross all the crosses of the world.”
Such crosses, he said, were borne, among others, by “those who find doors closed because of fear and hearts hardened by political calculations,” a reference to migrants rescued at sea whom populist leaders in Italy and several other European countries are refusing to take in.
He also spoke of the “cross of the little ones, wounded in their innocence and their purity,” but did not directly mention the scandals over Catholic clergy’s sexual abuse of children.
The ceremony, which included a traditional torch-lit procession at Rome’s Colosseum, also featured meditations written by Catholic nun Eugenia Bonetti, who has worked for 25 years to help migrant women trafficked into prostitution.
Her texts spoke of the plight of such women and of “today’s newly crucified,” including homeless and unemployed young people and “immigrants relegated to slums at the fringe of our societies after having endured untold suffering.”
The site of the ceremony, the Colosseum, is a symbolic one, as it was there that many Christians suffered persecution under the Roman Empire in the centuries immediately following the founding of their religion.