Pope condemns 'such cruel violence' in Easter Sunday address after Sri Lanka church bombings

Pope Francis called for peace in his Easter Urbi et OrbiReuters

The Pope used his Easter Sunday address to express his sorrow over deadly explosions at three Sri Lanka churches and several hotels that have killed over 100 people.

Delivering his Easter Urbi et Orbi address, he said the attacks "have wrought grief and sorrow". 

"I learned with sadness and pain of the news of the grave attacks, that precisely today, Easter, brought mourning and pain to churches and other places where people were gathered in Sri Lanka," he said. 

"I wish to express my heartfelt closeness to the Christian community [of Sri Lanka], wounded as it was gathered in prayer, and to all the victims of such cruel violence. 

"I entrust to the Lord all those who have tragically perished, and I pray for the injured and all those who suffer as a result of this tragic event."

It is not yet known who carried out the attacks on the churches, two of which were Catholic while one was evangelical. 

The Pope addressed the crowd from the central balcony of St Peter's Basilica to a crowd of around 70,000 people. 

Elsewhere in his address, he appealed for peace in places affected by conflict. 

He said he was praying for Christians in the Middle East, where many are persecuted for their faith, that they would "patiently persevere in their witness to the Risen Lord".

He urged the world not to forget about the conflict in Syria but to continue to work for a peaceful solution to years of conflict. 

"Now is instead the time for a renewed commitment for a political solution able to respond to people's legitimate hopes for freedom, peace and justice, confront the humanitarian crisis and favor the secure re-entry of the homeless, along with all those who have taken refuge in neighboring countries, especially Lebanon and Jordan," he said. 

The Pope prayed that the light of Easter would illuminate all government leaders and peoples in the Middle East, "beginning with the Israelis and Palestinians." 

Turning his attention to Africa, he lamented that some countries, specifically Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, Nigeria and Cameroon, are "rife with social tensions, conflicts and at times violent forms of extremism that leave in their wake insecurity, destruction and death". 

In Libya, he said he wanted to see an end to the bloodshed "where defenseless people are once more dying in recent weeks and many families have been forced to abandon their homes". 

Reflecting on the civil war in South Sudan, he said: "May a new page open in the history of that country, in which all political, social and religious components actively commit themselves to the pursuit of the common good and the reconciliation of the nation."