Pope Francis reached out to the “Muslim community” in Christchurch on Friday, assuring them of his solidarity and prayers after shooting attacks that claimed the lives of some 49 people with another 40 wounded.
“His Holiness Pope Francis was deeply saddened to learn of the injury and loss of life caused by the senseless acts of violence at two Mosques in Christchurch, and he assures all New Zealanders, and in particular the Muslim community, of his heartfelt solidarity in the wake of these attacks,” said a Vatican telegram signed on behalf of the pope by secretary of state Cardinal Pietro Parolin.
“Mindful of the efforts of the security and emergency personnel in this difficult situation, His Holiness prays for the healing of the injured, the consolation of those who grieve the loss of their loved ones, and for all affected by this tragedy,” the telegram states.
“Commending those who have died to the loving mercy of Almighty God, Pope Francis invokes the divine blessings of comfort and strength upon the nation,” it reads.
Countless other public figures and heads of state have also offered their condolences to the people of Christchurch.
“This appalling atrocity is an assault on all of us who cherish religious freedom, tolerance, compassion and community,” said England’s Prince Charles in a statement. “I know that the people of New Zealand will never allow hate and division to triumph over these things they hold dear.”
Police have reportedly arrested four people in connection with the coordinated mass shootings at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, on Friday.
New Zealand’s most recent census revealed that 1.1 percent of the population of 4.25 million is Muslim, while about half of the population self-identifies as Christian.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter Follow @tdwilliamsrome