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
WANTED!! The men behind #GarissaAttack 1. Muumin Abdalla Muumin 2. Suleiman Mohamed Awadh 3. Abdifatah Abubakar Abdi http://t.co/lDTrRu5dOG
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)
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)
President @UKenyatta's statement on #GarissaAttack http://t.co/ks5aeEjcg6
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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