Pope Francis, addressing tens of thousands at St. Peter's Square for his Palm Sunday Mass, remembered the dead of the Germanwings crash and paid tribute to "martyrs" killed for defending their faith.
Speaking in Italian, Francis, 78, prayed for those killed last week in the crash of the airliner in the French Alps, noting that schoolchildren were aboard the plane, which is believed to have been deliberately crashed by the co-pilot.
Commemorating the day the Bible says Jesus was welcomed to Jerusalem before his crucifixion, The Associated Press says that the pope "clutched a palm frond during the traditional procession at the service's start. In keeping with the simple tone of his two-year-old papacy, Francis leaned on a plain wooden pastoral staff instead of a traditionally more ornate one as he stood under a red canopy on the basilica steps."
The AP reports: "He wore bright red vestments to recall Jesus' death by crucifixion. In his homily, Francis stressed humility, another quality that has marked his papal style."
The pontiff, in an apparent reference to last month's killing of 21 Coptic Christians from Egypt, who were executed en masse by Islamic State extremists, said the faithful should remember "the humiliation endured by all those who, for their lives of fidelity to the Gospel, encounter discrimination and pay a personal price.
"We think too of our brothers and sisters who are persecuted because they are Christians, the martyrs of our own time. There are many of them. They refuse to deny Jesus and they endure insult and injury with dignity," he said.
According to the AP: "On Friday evening, the pope will preside over a Way of the Cross service at the Coliseum. On Easter Sunday he will celebrate mid-morning Mass in St. Peter's Square, and then give a blessing from the basilica's central balcony."