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Pope Francis Honors 'Today's Martyrs,' Remembers Victims of Germanwings Crash in Palm Sunday Message

( [email protected] ) Mar 30, 2015 02:57 PM EDT

Pope Francis
Pope Francis explained that imitating the humility of Jesus is what makes Holy Week ''holy,'' and encouraged attendees to imitate Jesus on his path of humiliation. (CNA)

Speaking on Palm Sunday, which marks the beginning of Holy Week, Pope Francis paid tribute to today's martyrs and remembered those who died in the Germanwings crash.

At the end of Mass outside St. Peter's Basilica,  Francis, who wore a bright red vestments to recall Jesus' death by crucifixion, honored those who he said were killed for their faith today, referencing the many believers slain by the Islamic State militants.

"We think too of the humiliation endured by all those who, for their lives of fidelity to the Gospel, encounter discrimination and pay a personal price," he told nearly 70,000 attendees, many of whom carried olive branches to commemorate Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem.

"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 added.

The Pope also prayed for those who died in Tuesday's crash in the French Alps, giving special mention to the German schoolchildren aboard the aircraft. The disaster killed 150 people, including two babies and the co-pilot, who investigators say deliberately crashed plane into the mountain.

In concluding his homily, Francis stressed humility, praising those who ignore their own needs to serve others. He encouraged Christians to give special notice to the events leading up to Christ's crucifixion, including the the contempt shown toward Jesus, the betrayal of Judas, Jesus' arrest and condemnation, how the disciples run away and how Peter denies knowing him.

"This is God's way, the way of humility," he said. "It is the way of Jesus; there is no other. And there can be no humility without humiliation."

The Pope explained that like Jesus, Christians must take on the form of servants.

"The way of the world" sees humble service as ridiculous and, instead, it proposes "the way of vanity, pride and success," Francis explained. "The Evil One proposed this way to Jesus, too, during his 40 days in the desert. But Jesus immediately rejected it."

He encouraged listeners to find strength and inspiration from those who humbly care for others and the aforementioned modern-day martyrs.

This week, the Pope will preside at two Good Friday services, including a Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) procession around the Colosseum. Then, after celebrating Easter Eve and Easter Day Masses on Sunday, he will deliver his 'Urbi et Orbi' (to the city and the world) message.