Pope Francis emphasized his distress over last Friday’s “horrible attack” on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, promising prayers and nearness to victims and their families.
After his midday Angelus address on Sunday, the pope reiterated the message of his recent telegram to the people of New Zealand, telling the crowds gathered in Saint Peter’s Square that prayers and “gestures of peace” were needed to counteract the hatred and violence in the world.
“Dear brothers and sisters, in these days, the pain of wars and conflicts that do not cease to afflict humanity have been compounded by the victims of the horrific attack against two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand,” the pope told the tens of thousands gathered in the Vatican.
“I pray for the dead and the wounded and their families,” he said. “I am close to that religious and civil community, and I renew the invitation to unite with prayer and gestures of peace to counter hatred and violence.”
Sunday’s words were the pope’s second public condemnation of the attacks, after the Vatican shared the pontiff’s telegram of condolence sent Friday.
In that message, the pope joined other world leaders in reaching out to the “Muslim community” in Christchurch, assuring them of his solidarity and prayers after the shooting attacks that claimed the lives of 49 people with scores more 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,” read the 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 stated.
“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.
Curiously, the pope offered no public words of solidarity to the Christians of central Nigeria, who mourn 120 victims including women and children massacred by Muslim Fulani militants in past days.
The jihadists, who have become a greater threat to Nigerian Christians than the Islamist terror group Boko Haram, stormed the villages of Inkirimi, Dogonnoma, and Ungwan Gora in the Kajuru Local Government Area last Monday, destroying 143 homes, killing 52 people, and wounding dozens more.
The slaughter was just the latest in a string of similar incidents that have led some to speak of a veritable Christian genocide in Nigeria’s middle belt.
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