Christians from across the world celebrated Easter on Sunday, commemorating the day followers believe Jesus was resurrected in Jerusalem 2,000 years ago.
A cloud of gloom, however, was cast on the religious festival as a series of near simultaneous explosions tore through several churches holding Easter services as well as high-end hotels in Sri Lanka. More than 200 were killed and over 400 injured.
In Pakistan, Christians observed the revered occasion amid tight security. Special services were hosted across all the major cities where the Christian community prayed for salvation, and for the progress and prosperity of Pakistan.
Special prayers were also held for the victims of the Sri Lankan bombings.
In Vatican City, Pope Francis in his Easter Sunday address condemned as “such cruel violence” the bombings that were timed to coincide with the most important day in the Christian liturgical calendar.
“I wish to express my affectionate closeness to the Christian community, hit while it was gathered in prayer, and to all the victims of such cruel violence,” the pope said.
Speaking from the central balcony of St Peter's Basilica, he appealed for peace in conflict areas.
“Before the many sufferings of our time, may the Lord of life not find us cold and indifferent,” he said, speaking in Italian after celebrating a Mass in the square.
“May he make us builders of bridges, not walls. May the One who gives us his peace end the roar of arms, both in areas of conflict and in our cities, and inspire the leaders of nations to work for an end to the arms race and the troubling spread of weaponry, especially in the economically more advanced countries,” he said.
In Paris, Parisians prayed for the swift restoration of the city's centuries-old Notre-Dame de Paris cathedral cathedral after its devastating fire.
With no cathedral to go to, hundreds gathered for Easter Sunday mass at the smaller Saint-Eustache catholic church on the city's right bank.
The archbishop of Paris, Michel Aupetit, began the service by drawing a parallel between the planned reconstruction of Notre-Dame de Paris cathedral and the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.
“We will rise up again and our cathedral will rise up again,” he told the congregation.
Header image: A view of the devastation caused by the blast inside St Sebastian's Church in Negombo. — AP