In three separate papal statements — plus a private meeting at the Vatican between Pope Francis and the archbishop of Paris today — the Vatican has strongly condemned yesterday’s terrorist attack in the French capital.
And at a Thursday meeting for interreligious dialogue, fours Islamic leaders joined Pope Francis in condemning the violence.
“Like him, we invite believers to manifest friendship,” they said, adding that in these circumstances, “it should be noted that without freedom of expression, the world is in danger.”
At the beginning of his homily at daily Mass this morning in the Vatican, Francis described the atrocity carried out by Islamist terrorists as “so much cruelty, human cruelty, of so much terrorism, both isolated incidents of terrorism, and state-sponsored terrorism.”
He added: “Let us pray at this Mass, for the victims of this cruelty. So many! And let us also pray for the perpetrators of this cruelty, that the Lord might grant them a change of heart."
Twelve people including two policeman, one of whom was Muslim, were murdered by gunmen yesterday at the offices of the French weekly satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo. The dead also included cartoonists for the strongly anti-religious and left-wing newspaper, as well as visitors to the Paris office.
The newspaper had become famous in recent years for publishing inflammatory cartoons ridiculing Islam and the Prophet Muhammad. In 2011 its offices were firebombed.
Yesterday, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi issued a statement in which he said Pope Francis expressed “the strongest condemnation of the horrific attack” and that, in prayer, he “shared in the suffering of the wounded and the families of the deceased.”
The communiqué added that the Pope “calls upon all to oppose by every means possible the spread of hatred and all forms of violence, both physical and moral, which destroy human life, violate the dignity of the person, and radically undermine the fundamental good of peaceful coexistence between individuals and peoples, despite differences of nationality, religion and culture.
“Whatever the motives may be, homicidal violence is abhorrent. It is never justifiable. The life and dignity of all must be resolutely guaranteed and protected. Any incitement to hatred should be rejected. Respect for the other must be cultivated.”
The statement ended by stressing the Pope’s closeness, spiritual solidarity and support “for all those who, according to their different responsibilities, continue to steadfastly work for peace, justice, and rights, to heal in depth the sources and causes of hatred, at this painful and tragic moment in France and in every part of the world marked by tensions and violence."
Through his secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Pope also issued telegram to the French people Thursday, expressing his condolences to the families of the victims and promising prayers for the victims, their loved ones and for all the French people.
The telegram said the Pope “joins in prayer with the pain of the bereaved families and the sadness of all the French.” Entrusting the victims to God, “full of mercy, praying that he might welcome them into his light,” the statement added that the Pope expressed his deepest sympathies to the injured and to their families, “asking the Lord to give them comfort and consolation in their ordeal. The Holy Father reiterates his condemnation of the violence, which generates so much suffering, and, imploring God to give the gift of peace, he assures the affected families and all the French the benefit of divine blessings."
Also Thursday, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, head of the Vatican’s department for interreligious dialogue, along with four French imams who just happened to be meeting him at the Vatican, said they shared the words of Pope Francis on the attack in condemning the cruel and blind violence.
Religious leaders are called to further encourage a “culture of peace and hope,” the said, “able to overcome fear and to build bridges between people.”
They added that, “considering the impact of the media,” they invited their leaders “to provide information respectful of religions, their followers and their practices, thus promoting a culture of encounter.” Interreligious dialogue, they said, “is the only way to go forward together to dispel prejudice.”
The Pope fortuitously had a pre-arranged private meeting today with Cardinal André Vingt Trois, the archbishop of Paris, during which the atrocity will certainly have been discussed.
Edward Pentin began reporting on the Vatican as a correspondent with Vatican Radio in 2002. He has covered the Pope and the Holy See for a number of publications, including Newsweek and The Sunday Times. Read more reports from Edward Pentin — Click Here Now.
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