Pope Francis has denounced Thursday’s Islamist terror attack in downtown Barcelona, calling it an “inhuman act” and a “most grave offense against the Creator.”
Just before 5:00pm on Thursday, a jihadist drove a rented van through the city’s tourist hotspot Las Ramblas, a pedestrian walkway, mowing down people and even swerving in an attempt to hit as many victims as possible. In the end, the man killed 14 people and injured dozens more in his rampage.
“After the news of the cruel terrorist attack that has sown La Rambla of Barcelona with death and pain, Pope Francis wishes to express his deepest regret for the victims who have lost their lives in such an inhuman act, while offering his prayers for their eternal rest,” reads the telegram sent from the Vatican Friday. The message was addressed to the Catholic Archbishop of Barcelona, Cardenal Juan José Omella.
The main Barcelona van attack was not the only act of Islamic terrorism that day. Spain suffered four separate incidents believed to be related to terrorism, including two deadly attacks, in little over 24 hours between Wednesday and Thursday, which left 14 victims dead, up to 80 injured, and as many as six suspected terrorists dead as well.
Spanish authorities have identified the attacks as Jihadist terrorism, and so far have arrested two — one Moroccan, and one Spanish citizen from Melilla, the Spanish exclave in Morocco.
Not long after the Barcelona incident, the Islamic State terror group took responsibility for the attack, speaking through its Amaq news agency.
In his telegram of condolence, Pope Francis reached out to victims and their families, while decrying the attack.
“In these moments of sorrow and pain, he also sends his support and closeness to the numerous wounded, their families and all of Catalan and Spanish society,” the telegram said.
“The Holy father condemns once more this blind violence, which is a most grave offense to the Creator,” it continues, “and raises his prayer to the Most High for help to continue working resolutely for peace and harmony in the world.”
In closing, the Pope also invoked God’s blessing on all the victims, their families, and the “beloved Spanish city” of Barcelona.
This past February, Pope Francis shocked many when he stated that “Muslim terrorism does not exist.”
“Christian terrorism does not exist, Jewish terrorism does not exist, and Muslim terrorism does not exist. They do not exist,” Francis said in his speech to a world meeting of populist movements.
What he apparently meant is that not all Christians are terrorists and not all Muslims are terrorists—a fact evident to all—yet his words also seemed to suggest that no specifically Islamic form of terrorism exists in the world, an assertion that would appear to stand in stark contradiction to established fact.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter Follow @tdwilliamsrome