On Good Friday, pope hears of indifference to Christian persecution

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Pope Francis Marks Good Friday

(Reuters) - Pope Francis presided at a Good Friday service where he heard the Vatican's official preacher accuse the international community of indifference to the persecution of Christians, a day after Islamist militants attacked a university in Kenya, killing at least 147 people.

Father Raniero Cantalamessa, whose title is "preacher of pontifical household," referred to the attack, in which the Al Shabaab militants initially killed indiscriminately but later freed some Muslims and targeted Christian students during a siege that lasted about 15 hours.

The long "Passion of the Lord" service, during which the pope prostrated in prayer on the marble floor of St. Peter's Basilica on the day Christians commemorate Jesus' crucifixion, is one of the few times he listens while someone else preaches.

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Garissa University College (Kenya, al-shabaab)
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On Good Friday, pope hears of indifference to Christian persecution
Kenya Red Cross staff assist a woman after she viewed the body of a relative killed in Thursday's attack on a university, at Chiromo funeral home, Nairobi, Kenya, Friday, April 3, 2015. Al-Shabab gunmen rampaged through a university in northeastern Kenya at dawn Thursday, killing scores of people in the group's deadliest attack in the East African country. Four militants were slain by security forces to end the siege just after dusk. (AP Photo)
Map locates areas where Al-Shabab gunmen stormed Garissa University College in Kenya killing more than 70 people.; 3c x 3 inches; 146 mm x 76 mm;
A crowd of Kenyan women and men, mostly muslim, listens as speakers denounce the latest attack by al-Shabab gunmen, at a public meeting in Garissa, Kenya Friday, April 3, 2015. The Islamic extremists who slaughtered 147 people at the college in northeast Kenya as they shouted "God is great" appeared to have planned extensively, even targeting a site where Christians had gone to pray, survivors said Friday. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
Kenya Red Cross staff assist a woman after she viewed the body of a relative killed in Thursday's attack on a university, at Chiromo funeral home, Nairobi, Kenya, Friday, April 3, 2015. Al-Shabab gunmen rampaged through a university in northeastern Kenya at dawn Thursday, killing scores of people in the group's deadliest attack in the East African country. Four militants were slain by security forces to end the siege just after dusk. (AP Photo)
WANTED!! The men behind #GarissaAttack 1. Muumin Abdalla Muumin 2. Suleiman Mohamed Awadh 3. Abdifatah Abubakar Abdi http://t.co/lDTrRu5dOG
Students of the Garissa University College take shelter in a vehicle after fleeing from an attack by gunmen in Garissa, Kenya, Thursday, April 2, 2015. Gunmen attacked the university early Thursday, shooting indiscriminately in campus hostels. Police and military surrounded the buildings and were trying to secure the area in eastern Kenya, police officer Musa Yego said. (AP Photo)
Medics help an injured person at Kenyatta National Hospital in Nairobi, Kenya, Thursday, April 2, 2015, after being airlifted from Garissa after an attack by gunmen at Garissa University College in northeastern Kenya on Thursday morning. Witnesses say the gunmen who stormed a college in Kenya Thursday morning identified themselves as members of al-Shabab, the Islamic extremist group from neighboring Somalia. (AP Photo)
Members of Kenya Defense Forces patrol at the Garissa University College in Garissa, northeastern Kenya, Friday, April 3, 2015. Al-Shabab gunmen rampaged through the university at dawn Thursday, killing over 100 people in the group's deadliest attack in the East African country. (AP Photo/Khalil Senosi)
Medics help an injured person at Kenyatta national Hospital in Nairobi, Kenya, Thursday, April , 2, 2015 , after being airlifted from Garissa after an attack by gunmen at Garissa University College in northeastern Kenya on Thursday morning. Al-Shabab gunmen attacked Garissa University College in northeast Kenya early Thursday, targeting Christians and killing at least 15 people and wounding 60 others, witnesses said. (AP Photo)
A Christian faithful prays near the Holy Family Basilica in Nairobi, Kenya, Friday, April 3, 2015 on Good Friday during the Holy Week of Easter. Easter marks the end of Lent, a forty-day period of fasting, prayer, and penance. The last week of the Lent is called Holy Week, and it contains Good Friday, commemorating the crucifixion and death of Jesus. (AP Photo/Sayyid Azim)
A member of Kenya Defense Forces secures the area of the Garissa University College in Garissa, northeastern Kenya, Friday, April 3, 2015. Al-Shabab gunmen rampaged through the university at dawn Thursday, killing over 100 people in the group's deadliest attack in the East African country. (AP Photo/Khalil Senosi)
A university student gets on a bus at the gate of the Garissa University College in Garissa, northeastern Kenya, Friday, April 3, 2015. Al-Shabab gunmen rampaged through the university at dawn Thursday, killing over 100 people in the group's deadliest attack in the East African country. (AP Photo/Khalil Senosi)
Kenya Red Cross staff help a woman after she viewed the body of a relative killed in Thursday's attack on a university, at Chiromo funeral home, Nairobi, Kenya, Friday, April 3, 2015. Al-Shabab gunmen rampaged through a university in northeastern Kenya at dawn Thursday, killing scores of people in the group's deadliest attack in the East African country. Four militants were slain by security forces to end the siege just after dusk. (AP Photo)
A member of Kenya Defence Forces patrols the area of the Garissa University college, in Garissa, Kenya, Thursday, April 2, 2015. Al-Shabab gunmen attacked Garissa University College in northeast Kenya early Thursday, targeting Christians and killing over 100 people and wounding others, according to Kenya's national disaster operations center and the interior minister. (AP Photo/Khalil Senosi)
A member of Kenya Defence Forces secures the area of the Garissa University college, in Garissa, Kenya, Thursday, April 2, 2015. Al-Shabab gunmen attacked Garissa University College in northeast Kenya early Thursday, targeting Christians and killing over 100 people and wounding others, according to Kenya's national disaster operations center and the interior minister. (AP Photo/Khalil Senosi)
A student injured in the attack on Moi university by Shebab fighters is treated at a hospital in Garissa on April 3, 2015 Kenya's interior minister vowed that the country would not bow to terrorist threats, a day after the massacre of 147 students by Somalia's Al-Qaeda-linked Shebab fighters. AFP PHOTO / CARL DE SOUZA (Photo credit should read CARL DE SOUZA/AFP/Getty Images)
A Kenya Defence Forces soldier secures the area around the Garissa University college, in Garissa, Kenya, Thursday, April 2, 2015. Al-Shabab gunmen attacked Garissa University College in northeast Kenya early Thursday, targeting Christians and killing over 100 people and wounding others, according to Kenya's national disaster operations center and the interior minister. (AP Photo/Khalil Senosi)
Local people look on as a man read a newspaper in Garissa on April 3, 2015, bearing headlines and pictures concerning the attack a day earlier on the university there by Shebab fighters.. Kenya's interior minister vowed that the country would not bow to terrorist threats, a day after the massacre of 147 students by Somalia's Al-Qaeda-linked Shebab fighters. AFP PHOTO / CARL DE SOUZA (Photo credit should read CARL DE SOUZA/AFP/Getty Images)
A member of the Kenyan Defence Forces stands guard at the Garissa University campus after an attack by Somalia's Al-Qaeda-linked Shebab gunmen in Garissa on April 2, 2015. At least 70 students were massacred when Somalia's Shebab Islamist group attacked a Kenyan university today, the interior minister said, the deadliest attack in the country since US embassy bombings in 1998. AFP PHOTO / CARL DE SOUZA (Photo credit should read CARL DE SOUZA/AFP/Getty Images)
Kenyan police officers take positions outside the Garissa University College as an ambulance carrying the injured going to a hospital, during an attack by gunmen in Garissa, Kenya, Thursday, April 2, 2015. Gunmen attacked the university early Thursday, shooting indiscriminately in campus hostels. Police and military surrounded the buildings and were trying to secure the area in eastern Kenya, police officer Musa Yego said. (AP Photo) (AP Photo)
President @UKenyatta's statement on #GarissaAttack http://t.co/ks5aeEjcg6
Students of the Garissa University College get out of a house where they seek refuge after fleeing from an attack by gunmen in Garissa, Kenya, Thursday, April 2, 2015. Gunmen attacked the university early Thursday, shooting indiscriminately in campus hostels. Police and military surrounded the buildings and were trying to secure the area in eastern Kenya, police officer Musa Yego said. (AP Photo)
Students of the Garissa University College get out of a house where they were taking shelter from an attack by gunmen in Garissa, Kenya, Thursday, April 2, 2015. Gunmen attacked the university early Thursday, shooting indiscriminately in campus hostels. Police and military surrounded the buildings and were trying to secure the area in eastern Kenya, police officer Musa Yego said. (AP Photo)
Students of the Garissa University College get out of a house where they were taking shelter from an attack by gunmen in Garissa, Kenya, Thursday, April 2, 2015. Gunmen attacked the university early Thursday, shooting indiscriminately in campus hostels. Police and military surrounded the buildings and were trying to secure the area in eastern Kenya, police officer Musa Yego said. (AP Photo)
Some students without their shirts of the Garissa University College get out of a house where they seek refuge after escaping from an attack by gunmen in Garissa, Kenya, Thursday, April 2, 2015. Gunmen attacked the university early Thursday, shooting indiscriminately in campus hostels. Police and military surrounded the buildings and were trying to secure the area in eastern Kenya, police officer Musa Yego said. (AP Photo)
Kenyan police officers take cover outside the Garissa University College during an attack by gunmen in Garissa, Kenya, Thursday, April 2, 2015. Gunmen attacked the university early Thursday, shooting indiscriminately in campus hostels. Police and military surrounded the buildings and were trying to secure the area in eastern Kenya, police officer Musa Yego said. (AP Photo)
Kenya MT @DennisOkari: The gunmen are holed up inside the upper hostel section. I can hear gunfire from the other end http://t.co/LuYkIkfMOY
#Kenyan army tank drives towards #Garissa University. Gunfire, hostages still inside http://t.co/xwDXfp1I9t
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Cantalamessa weaved his sermon around the plight of Christians today.

"Christians are of course not the only victims of homicidal violence in the world, but we cannot ignore that in many countries they are the most frequently targeted victims," he said.

Cantalamessa denounced "the disturbing indifference of world institutions and public opinion in the face of all this killing of Christians ...".

Besides the Kenya killings, he mentioned the beheading of 22 Egyptian Coptic Christians last February by Islamic State militants in Libya.

Later on Friday, the second of four days of papal activities culminating on Easter Sunday, Francis was due to lead a candlelight "Way of the Cross" procession around the ruins of Rome's Colosseum.

On Saturday night, the leader of the world's 1.2 billion Roman Catholic celebrates an Easter Eve service in St. Peter's Basilica and on Sunday he delivers his twice yearly "Urbi et Orbi" (to the city and the world) blessing and message.

The pope earlier on Friday condemned the Kenyan university attack as "senseless brutality".

Francis has expressed alarm over the plight of Christians targeted for their faith and has said the international community would be justified in using military force as a last resort to stop "unjust aggression" by Islamic State.

(Reporting By Philip Pullella; Editing by Larry King)

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