U.S. Bishops Denounce New Zealand Mosque Shootings

US cardinal Daniel DiNardo listens during a press conference at the North American College on March 5, 2013 in Rome. The Vatican said Tuesday that the date for the conclave to elect a new pope could be set before all cardinals have arrived in Rome, as five electors were still …

The president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) condemned the “slaughter of innocent Muslim brothers and sisters” that occurred in Christchurch, New Zealand, Friday.

In a statement, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston and USCCB president said he was “deeply saddened by the senseless attacks at the Noor and Linwood mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand that killed dozens of worshippers and seriously injured many others, including children.”

“This slaughter of innocent Muslim brothers and sisters praying peacefully is being described as a terrorist attack carried out by a self-identified fascist and his accomplices,” the cardinal said.

Citing the Catholic bishops of New Zealand, DiNardo said that “we are particularly horrified that this has happened at a place and time of prayer.”

“Unfortunately, we Americans are all too familiar with gun violence, which often targets religious communities,” he continued. “However, we must not remain complacent or desensitized to the horror of these tragedies.”

DiNardo said he joined his brother bishops in New Zealand “in expressing solidarity with the Muslim community and in calling Catholics to join in prayer for the victims of this shooting, their families, and the Muslim community that was directly targeted.”

“May almighty God change the hearts of those who hate to recognize the inherent dignity of all people and bring consolation to all those affected by this heart-rending loss,” he said.

The bishop of Pittsburgh, whose city suffered its own faith-based tragedy five months ago when a gunman opened fire in a synagogue, killing 11 and wounding six others, also expressed his sadness and shock over the New Zealand incident.

“Together with so many others, my heart hurts to learn of yet another mass shooting in a place of worship,” said Pittsburgh Bishop David A. Zubik in a statement. “The senseless taking of innocent life is only made more disturbing when people are targeted because of their beliefs and as they gather to pray.”

Friday’s mass shootings at two mosques in Christchurch claimed the lives of 49 people and left another 42 wounded. Australian citizen Brenton Harrison Tarrant is the prime suspect for the attacks and has been charged with murder. Police have arrested two other alleged accomplices.

Just over one percent (1.1) of the New Zealand population identifies as Muslim, and about half of the population identifies as Christian, according to the most recent national census.

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