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Pope, Catholic leaders urge prayers after terrorist attacks in Spain

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Catholic News Service

Spanish church leaders urged prayers and national unity after two terrorist attacks left at least 19 people dead.

Pope Francis, U.S. bishops and others weighed in with prayers and rejection of the Aug. 17 attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils, where cars drove into pedestrians. The Islamic State group claimed credit for the attacks. Fourteen were killed in Barcelona; one pedestrian and five suspects were killed in Cambrils.

Medics move an injured person after a van crashed into pedestrians in the Las Ramblas district of Barcelona, Spain, Aug. 17. Terrorists killed at least 12 and injured more than 50 others. (CNS photo/Quique Garcia, EPA)

“People are deeply shocked and saddened by this totally random event,” said Msgr. Josep Ramon Perez, dean of Barcelona’s Catholic cathedral. “While many are naturally asking what’s happening to the world to make such things possible, many also recognize that the most important response is to pray for peace.”

Thousands attended a midday vigil Aug. 18 in Barcelona’s Plaza de Catalunya, attended by Spanish King Felipe VI and government and political party leaders from across the country. Spanish police asked mourners not to bring bags or backpacks to the vigil, which was accompanied by parallel commemorations in Madrid and other cities, as well as at the European Union’s headquarters in Brussels.

Barcelona Cardinal Juan Jose Omella interrupted his retreat Aug. 17 to return to his city and be close to his people. The Archdiocese of Barcelona released photographs of him visiting victims of the attack at the hospital.

In a message to Cardinal Omella, Pope Francis denounced the “cruel terrorist attack” in Barcelona and said such “blind violence,” which sows death and pain, is “a great offense to the Creator.”

The papal message, sent by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, included prayers for the eternal repose of the dead, and for their families.

Pope Francis, it said, also prayed that God “would help us continue working with determination for peace and harmony in the world.”

In an interview Aug. 18, Msgr. Perez said Barcelona’s cathedral and neighboring churches had been closed after the attack as part of a security lockdown, forcing visitors and pilgrims to remain inside until late evening.

“The terrorists who carried out this action have nothing to do with ordinary people here,” Msgr. Perez said, noting that “local Muslims are just as shocked and horrified as everyone else.”

Candles, flowers and messages of solidarity were placed in memory of victims at various city locations.

Meanwhile, the Tarraconense bishops’ conference, grouping Catholic bishops from Spain’s Catalonia region, said members were “completely dismayed” by the “barbarity of the attack and the contempt it implies for human life and its dignity,” adding that Barcelona and its inhabitants had always been “committed to the cause of peace and justice.”

In an Aug. 18 interview with the Spanish church’s COPE news agency, Cardinal Ricardo Blasquez, president of the Madrid-based bishops’ conference, said Spaniards would be “especially beaten” after the Barcelona outrage, which had “inflicted a wound on everyone.” He urged citizens to remember that Muslims were “the main victims” of Islamic State and not to “criminalize” them for the attack or “identify terrorism with Islam.”

“Far from being terrorist violence, the true road to building a future of peace, now and forever, lies in respect for all people,” Cardinal Blasquez said.

Following the first attack, Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, chairman of the USCCB Committee on International Justice and Peace, said the bishops’ conference “unequivocally condemns this morally heinous act and places itself in solidarity with the people of the Archdiocese of Barcelona and Spain at this terrible time of loss and grief.”

“Terrorist attacks on innocent civilians can never be justified,” he said. “To directly attack innocent men, women and children is utterly reprehensible.”

The attack is the latest of several in which trucks and vans had been driven at high speed through pedestrian zones in Europe.

In an Aug. 18 message, Archbishop Georges Pontier of Marseille, president of the bishops’ conference in neighboring France, said the Barcelona atrocity was “an insult to the Creator,” and would unite Catholics in their determination that “evil will not have the last word.”

In Nice, France, in July 2016, 86 people were killed and 458 injured in a similar attack with a 19-ton truck.

The Las Ramblas attack was Spain’s worst since March 2004, when Islamist militants detonated 10 bombs on commuter trains in Madrid, killing 191 people and injuring more than 1,800.

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Pope denounces ‘homicidal madness’ after attacks in Berlin, Ankara

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Expressing his condolences to victims and their families, Pope Francis called for an end to terrorism following a string of deadly attacks in Berlin and Ankara.

Similar to an attack with a truck that took place in July in Nice, France, a tractor-trailer veered into the crowded Breitscheidplatz Christmas market in Berlin and plowed through bystanders, killing 12 people and wounding nearly 50.

A mourner prays in front of a makeshift memorial Dec. 20 at the scene where a truck plowed into a crowded Christmas market the previous day in Berlin. The terrorist attack killed at least a dozen people and injured nearly 50 as it smashed through tables and wooden stands. (CNS photo/Hannibal Hanschke, Reuters)

A mourner prays in front of a makeshift memorial Dec. 20 at the scene where a truck plowed into a crowded Christmas market the previous day in Berlin. The terrorist attack killed at least a dozen people and injured nearly 50 as it smashed through tables and wooden stands. (CNS photo/Hannibal Hanschke, Reuters)

In a Dec. 20 telegram sent by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, to Archbishop Heiner Koch of Berlin, the pope prayed for the families of the dead and the wounded, “assuring his closeness in their pain.”

“Pope Francis joins all people of good will who are working so that the homicidal madness of terrorism does not find any more room in our world,” Cardinal Parolin wrote.

Cardinal Parolin said the pope received news of the attack with “profound emotion” and joined the families of the victims in their mourning and “entrusts the dead to the mercy of God.”

Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising, Germany, president of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community, said news of the attack in Berlin had “deeply shocked me” and called on the people of Germany to “hold together and stand united as a society.”

“The violence on the Christmas market is the opposite of what visitors were seeking. My compassion goes to the relatives of the dead and injured. For all of them, I will pray,” he said Dec. 20.

Police detained an asylum-seeker from Pakistan who was near the attack. However, as of Dec. 20, authorities said they are unsure whether he was the driver of the truck.

The attack in Berlin occurred not long after the assassination of Russia’s ambassador to Turkey, Andrey Karlov, by a lone gunman during the opening of an art exhibition in Ankara.

Mevlut Mert Altintas, an off-duty Turkish policeman, shot Karlov several times, shouting “Allahu akbar (God is great). Do not forget Aleppo! Do not forget Syria! Do not forget Aleppo! Do not forget Syria!”

The gunman was later shot and killed by police. Several family members and the gunman’s roommate were detained by investigators seeking a possible connection with terrorist groups.

Cardinal Parolin conveyed the pope’s condolences to President Vladimir Putin of Russia, saying he was “saddened to learn of the violent attack in Ankara.”

“In commending his soul to almighty God, Pope Francis assures you and all the people of the Russian Federation of his prayers and spiritual solidarity at this time,” Cardinal Parolin wrote.

The Vatican also told journalists that Archbishop Paul Gallagher, Vatican secretary for relations with states, telephoned the Russian ambassador to the Holy See, Alexander Avdeev, to “express his condolences for the murder of the Russian ambassador to Turkey.”

 

 

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Pope calls for prayers for Syrian victims of terrorist attacks

By

Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pray for victims of recent terrorist attacks in Syria and pray that those who sow death and destruction will change their ways, Pope Francis said in an appeal.

At the end of his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square May 25, the pope mentioned a string of attacks to hit “beloved Syria” May 23, causing the death of “defenseless civilians.”

A volunteer from Lesbos, Greece, presents Pope Francis a life-jacket that belonged to a Syrian girl who drowned. The presentation was at the end of the pope's general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican May 25. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano)

A volunteer from Lesbos, Greece, presents Pope Francis a life-jacket that belonged to a Syrian girl who drowned. The presentation was at the end of the pope’s general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican May 25. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano)

At least 150 people were killed in separate, but nearly simultaneous explosions in the cities of Jableh and Tartus. Militants of the Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attacks on the civilian targets, which included a hospital.

Before leading the “Hail Mary,” the pope asked that everyone pray for the “eternal repose of the victims, solace for the relatives” and that God would “convert the hearts of those who sow death and destruction.”

Also at the audience, the pope marked International Missing Children’s Day with an appeal to civil and religious leaders to raise people’s awareness and inspire action in protecting vulnerable children.

“It is the duty of everyone to protect children, most of all those exposed to a high risk of exploitation, trafficking and deviant behaviors,” the pope said.

He said he hoped civil and religious leaders could “rattle” people’s consciences and raise awareness so that no one would be indifferent to the problem of children who are “alone, exploited and removed from their families and social context, children who cannot grow up in peace and look to the future with hope.”

He invited everyone to pray that every missing child would be “returned to the affection of their own loved ones.”

According to the International Center for Missing and Exploited Children, more than 8 million children around the world go missing every year. These children face increased danger of falling victim to abuse, exploitation and illegal activities, it said.

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Nothing can justify barbaric terrorist attacks in Paris, Pope Francis says

By

Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Using God’s name to try to justify violence and murder is “blasphemy,” Pope Francis said Nov. 15, speaking about the terrorist attacks on Paris.

“Such barbarity leaves us dismayed, and we ask ourselves how the human heart can plan and carry out such horrible events,” the pope said after reciting the Angelus prayer with visitors in St. Peter’s Square.

A police car is seen outside Notre Dame Cathedral as people leave after a Mass celebrated by Paris Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois in Paris Nov. 15 to pray for those killed in terrorist attacks. Coordinated attacks the evening of Nov. 13 claimed the lives of 129 people. The Islamic State claimed responsibility. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

A police car is seen outside Notre Dame Cathedral as people leave after a Mass celebrated by Paris Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois in Paris Nov. 15 to pray for those killed in terrorist attacks. Coordinated attacks the evening of Nov. 13 claimed the lives of 129 people. The Islamic State claimed responsibility. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

The attacks in Paris Nov. 13, attacks the French government said were carried out by three teams of Islamic State terrorists, caused the deaths of at least 129 people and left more than 350 injured, many of them critically. A suicide bomber blew himself up outside a soccer stadium, gunmen attacked customers at cafes and restaurants and a team of terrorists gunned down dozens of people at a concert.

The attacks, Pope Francis said, were an “unspeakable affront to the dignity of the human person.”

“The path of violence and hatred cannot resolve the problems of humanity, and using the name of God to justify this path is blasphemy,” he said.

Pope Francis asked the thousands of people who gathered at St. Peter’s for the Sunday midday prayer to observe a moment of silence and to join him in reciting a Hail Mary.

“May the Virgin Mary, mother of mercy, give rise in the hearts of everyone thoughts of wisdom and proposals for peace,” he said. “We ask her to protect and watch over the dear French nation, the first daughter of the church, over Europe and the whole world.”

“Let us entrust to the mercy of God the innocent victims of this tragedy,” the pope said.

Speaking Nov. 14, the day after the terrorist attacks, Pope Francis had told the television station of the Italian bishops’ conference, “I am shaken and pained.”

“I don’t understand, but these things are difficult to understand, how human beings can do this,” the pope said. “That is why I am shaken, pained and am praying.”

The director of the television station recalled how the pope has spoken many times about a “third world war being fought in pieces.”

“This is a piece,” the pope responded. “There are no justifications for these things.”

On social media, Islamic State militants claimed responsibility, but Pope Francis insisted there can be no “religious or human” excuse for killing innocent people and sowing terror. “This is not human.”

French authorities reported Nov. 14 that eight terrorists were dead after the night of attacks; six of them committed suicide and two were killed by police, who stormed the concert hall where the terrorists had taken hostages and where the majority of victims died.

Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois of Paris issued a statement calling for calm and for prayers, not only for the Paris victims, but also for the victims of recent terrorist attacks in Lebanon and in Africa.

“May no one allow himself to be defeated by panic and hatred,” the cardinal said. “Let us ask for the grace of being peacemakers. We must never lose our hope for peace if we work for justice.”

With some 1,500 inside Paris’ Notre Dame Cathedral and hundreds more gathered outside Nov. 15, Cardinal Vingt-Trois celebrated a special Mass in memory of the victims. As the cathedral bells tolled a death knell, police patrolled the square in front of the cathedral and checked people as they entered the Paris landmark for Mass.

The cardinal told the assembly, which included government officials and ambassadors from a variety of nations, that the Mass was intended as a sign of sharing the pain of the victims and of praying for them, their families, for Paris and for France.

“The savage killings this black Friday plunged entire families into despair, and this despair is all the more profound because there can be no rational explanation that would justify the indiscriminate execution of dozens of anonymous people,” the cardinal said.

The only Christian response, he said, is to be “messengers of hope in the heart of human suffering.”

The terrorists succeed if their actions shake Christians’ hope founded on faith in Christ and on a belief that all of history, including moments of suffering, is in God’s hands, he said.

The appropriate response to the “barbaric savagery” of the terrorists, he said, is “to demonstrate additional trust in our fellowmen and their dignity.”

Just a few hours after the attacks occurred, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, issued a statement saying the Vatican was “shocked by this new manifestation of maddening terrorist violence and hatred, which we condemn in the most radical way.”

Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, sent a message in the pope’s name to Cardinal Vingt-Trois, calling the attacks “horrific” and relaying the pope’s prayers for the victims, their families and the entire nation.

“He invokes God, the father of mercy, asking that he welcome the victims into the peace of his light and bring comfort and hope to the injured and their families,” Cardinal Parolin wrote.

The pope also “vigorously condemns violence, which cannot solve anything, and he asks God to inspire thoughts of peace and solidarity in all.”

Father Lombardi was asked about security concerns throughout Europe, and particularly whether the terrorist attacks would impact plans for the Year of Mercy, which is scheduled to begin Dec. 8.

“These murderers, possessed by senseless hatred, are called terrorists precisely because they want to spread terror,” Father Lombardi responded in a statement. “If we let ourselves be frightened, they will have already reached their first objective.”

“It goes without saying that we must be cautious, and not irresponsible,” he said, but “we must go on living by building peace and mutual trust.”

“I would say that the Jubilee of Mercy shows itself even more more necessary,” Father Lombardi said. Preaching God’s love and mercy also is a call for people to love one another and reconcile with each other. It “is precisely the answer we must give in times of temptation to mistrust.”

 

Contributing to this story was Paul Haring in Paris.

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Pope ‘shaken, pained and praying’ after terrorist attacks in Paris

November 14th, 2015 Posted in Vatican News Tags: , ,

By

Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — “This is not human,” Pope Francis said after a night of terror in Paris left more than 120 people dead and more than 200 people injured.

Pope Francis (CNS file/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis (CNS file/Paul Haring)

As French authorities investigated the almost simultaneous attacks Nov. 13 on at least six different sites — inside a concert hall, outside a soccer stadium, and at four cafes and restaurants — Pope Francis spoke briefly Nov. 14 with the television station of the Italian bishops’ conference.

“I am shaken and pained,” the pope said. “I don’t understand, but these things are difficult to understand, how human beings can do this. That is why I am shaken, pained and am praying.”

The director of the television station recalled how the pope has spoken many times about a “third world war being fought in pieces.”

“This is a piece,” the pope responded. “There are no justifications for these things.”

On social media, Islamic State militants claimed responsibility, but Pope Francis insisted there can be no “religious or human” excuse for killing innocent people and sowing terror. “This is not human.”

French authorities reported Nov. 14 that eight terrorists were dead after the night of attacks; six of them committed suicide and two were killed by police, who stormed the concert hall where the terrorists had taken hostages and where the majority of victims died.

Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois of Paris issued a statement calling for calm and for prayers, not only for the Paris victims, but also for the victims of recent terrorist attacks in Lebanon and in Africa.

He urged all parishes to strictly follow the security guidelines of the police, but also asked for special memorial Masses over the weekend. He said he would celebrate a special Mass for the victims Nov. 15 in Notre Dame Cathedral.

“May no one allow himself to be defeated by panic and hatred,” the cardinal said. “Let us ask for the grace of being peacemakers. We must never lose our hope for peace if we work for justice.”

Just a few hours after the attacks occurred, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, issued a statement saying the Vatican was “shocked by this new manifestation of maddening terrorist violence and hatred, which we condemn in the most radical way.”

Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, sent a message in the pope’s name to Cardinal Vingt-Trois calling the attacks “horrific” and relaying the pope’s prayers for the victims, their families and the entire nation.

“He invokes God, the father of mercy, asking that he welcome the victims into the peace of his light and bring comfort and hope to the injured and their families,” Cardinal Parolin wrote.

The pope also “vigorously condemns violence, which cannot solve anything, and he asks God to inspire thoughts of peace and solidarity in all.”

Father Lombardi was asked about security concerns throughout Europe, and particularly whether the terrorist attacks would impact plans for the Year of Mercy, which is scheduled to begin Dec. 8.

“These murderers, possessed by senseless hatred, are called terrorists precisely because they want to spread terror,” Father Lombardi responded in a statement. “If we let ourselves be frightened, they will have already reached their first objective.”

“It goes without saying that we must be cautious, and not irresponsible,” he said, but “we must go on living by building peace and mutual trust.”

“I would say that the Jubilee of Mercy shows itself even more more necessary,” Father Lombardi said. Preaching God’s love and mercy also is a call for people to love one another and reconcile with each other. It “is precisely the answer we must give in times of temptation to mistrust.”

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