By Cindy Wooden
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Using God’s name to try to justify violence and murder is “blasphemy,” Pope Francis said Nov. 15 speaking about the terrorist attacks on Paris.
“Such barbarity leaves us dismayed and we ask ourselves how the human heart can plan and carry out such horrible events,” the pope said after reciting the Angelus prayer with visitors in St. Peter’s Square.
The attacks in Paris Nov. 13 – attacks the French government said were carried out by three teams of Islamic State terrorists – caused the deaths of 129 people and left more than 350 injured, many of them critically. A suicide bomber blew himself up outside a soccer stadium, gunmen attacked customers at cafes and restaurants and a team of terrorists gunned down dozens of people at a concert.
The attacks, Pope Francis said, were an “unspeakable affront to the dignity of the human person.” “The path of violence and hatred cannot resolve the problems of humans and using the name of God to justify this path is blasphemy,” he said. Pope Francis asked the thousands of people who gathered at St. Peter’s for the Sunday midday prayer to observe a moment of silence and to join him in reciting a Hail Mary.
“May the Virgin Mary, mother of mercy, give rise in the hearts of everyone thoughts of wisdom and proposals for peace,” he said. “We ask her to protect and watch over the dear French nation, the first daughter of the church, over Europe and the whole world.”
“Let us entrust to the mercy of God the innocent victims of this tragedy,” the pope said.
Pained and Praying
Speaking Nov. 14, the day after the terrorist attacks, Pope Francis had told the television station of the Italian bishops’ conference, “I am shaken and pained.”
“I don’t understand, but these things are difficult to understand, how human beings can do this,” the pope said. “That is why I am shaken, pained and am praying.” The director of the television station recalled how the pope has spoken many times about a “third world war being fought in pieces.”
“This is a piece,” the pope responded. “There are no justifications for these things.”
On social media, Islamic State militants claimed responsibility, but Pope Francis insisted there can be no “religious or human” excuse for killing innocent people and sowing terror. “This is not human.”
French authorities reported Nov. 14 that eight terrorists were dead after the night of attacks; six of them committed suicide and two were killed by police, who stormed the concert hall where the terrorists had taken hostages and where the majority of victims died.
Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois of Paris issued a statement calling for calm and for prayers, not only for the Paris victims, but also for the victims of recent terrorist attacks in Lebanon and in Africa.
He urged all parishes to strictly follow the security guidelines of the police, but also asked for special memorial Masses over the weekend. He said he would celebrate a special Mass for the victims Nov. 15 in Notre Dame Cathedral.
“May no one allow himself to be defeated by panic and hatred,” the cardinal said.“Let us ask for the grace of being peacemakers.We must never lose our hope for peace if we work for justice.”
Just a few hours after the attacks occurred, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, issued a statement saying the Vatican was “shocked by this new manifestation of maddening terrorist violence and hatred, which we condemn in the most radical way.”
Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, sent a message in the pope’s name to Cardinal VingtTrois calling the attacks “horrific” and relaying the pope’s prayers for the victims, their families and the entire nation.
“He invokes God, the father of mercy, asking that he welcome the victims into the peace of his light and bring comfort and hope to the injured and their families,” Cardinal Parolin wrote.
The pope also “vigorously condemns violence, which cannot solve anything, and he asks God to inspire thoughts of peace and solidarity in all.”
Father Lombardi was asked about security concerns throughout Europe, and particularly whether the terrorist attacks would impact plans for the Year of Mercy, which is scheduled to begin Dec. 8.
“These murderers, possessed by senseless hatred, are called terrorists precisely because they want to spread terror,” Father Lombardi responded in a statement. “If we let ourselves be frightened, they will have already reached their first objective.”
Building Peace, Trust
“It goes without saying that we must be cautious, and not irresponsible,” he said, but “we must go on living by building peace and mutual trust.”
“I would say that the Jubilee of Mercy shows itself even more necessary,” Father Lombardi said.
Preaching God’s love and mercy also is a call for people to love one another and reconcile with each other. It “is precisely the answer we must give in times of temptation to mistrust,” he said.