Pope Francis has condemned the attack by Islamic militants on a Kenyan university as an act of "senseless brutality" and called for those responsible to change their violent ways.

In a telegram of condolence Friday, Francis also urged Kenyan authorities to work to bring an end to such attacks and "hasten the dawn of a new era of brotherhood, justice and peace."

Survivors of the attack on Garissa University College, which killed 147 people, said the al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Shabab gunmen targeted Christians and headed for a lecture hall where Christians were in early morning prayer.

The Vatican has fiercely condemned the surge in attacks by Islamic extremists on Christians in Nigeria, the Middle East and elsewhere, and has urged Muslim religious authorities to preach that Islam doesn't condone such violence.