Archbishop Pavel Pezzi of Moscow on Saturday offered his “deepest condolences” to the victims and relatives of a “brutal terrorist attack” in Russia’s capital on Friday evening.

At least 133 people were killed at a concert hall in Krasnogorsk, a suburb of Moscow.

Crocus City Hall opened in 2009, and was the venue featuring the 2013 Miss Universe beauty pageant hosted by Donald Trump.

Just over two weeks ago, the United States embassy in Moscow issued a security alert after receiving reports that “extremists have imminent plans to target large gatherings in Moscow, to include concerts.”

The Islamic State group’s Afghanistan branch claimed responsibility for the attack on social media.

“Following the brutal terrorist attack in Moscow, which left many people dead and injured, I would like to express my deepest condolences to the relatives of the victims and support to everyone who suffered in this terrible tragedy,” Pezzi said in a statement.

“Today, our hearts are filled with horror and pain, but we will not allow them to make us forget that our lives and the lives of all people are in the hands of God,” the archbishop said.

He noted Holy Week begins in the Catholic Church on Sunday, and that it “reminds us that death is not the last word – that Christ conquers death.”

“But before this, He shares with us the entire depth of our suffering, ‘a man of sorrows and acquainted with pain,’ Jesus does not free us from suffering, but goes through it with us. God’s response to human suffering is a loving presence,” Pezzi said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced on Saturday that authorities have detained 11 people in the attack.

The Russian leader suggested the attackers had been trying to get to Ukraine – which Russia is currently at war – and said the Ukrainians were trying to help them escape.

Ukraine has strongly denied any involvement in the attack.

Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, called the Russian accusation, “absolutely untenable and absurd.”

“We expected Russian officials’ version of the “Ukrainian trace” in the terrorist attack in #CrocusCityHall. Primitivism and predictability are ideal characteristics of the Russian security services. Once again, the #FSB confirms this,” he said on X – formerly known as Twitter.

“Ukraine has not the slightest connection to this incident. Ukraine has a full-scale war with #Russia and will solve the problem of Russia’s aggression (aggression, by the way, with a deliberate terrorist component) on the battlefield,” Podolyak wrote.

Orthodox Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia said he was “deeply shocked by the terrorist attack” at the concert hall.

“The crime committed is striking in its cynicism and cruelty. I express my sincere condolences to you and my heart grieves with you,” said in a statement.

Kirill said the Orthodox Church will provide “all necessary pastoral assistance to the victims and families of the victims.”

Friday’s attack is the worst terrorist attack in Russia since 2002, when Chechen militants took more than 900 people hostage during a musical at a theater. Russian security services eventually stormed the facility after pumping sleeping gas into the hall. At least 130 hostages died.

Other recent mass shootings in Russia include in 2021, when a 19-year-old was detained after seven children and two adults were killed in a shooting at a school in Kazan. In 2022, a gunman who was a former pupil at a school in Izhevsk shot and killed at least 17 people, including 11 children, before killing himself.

In 2017, a bomb attack on the St Petersburg metro that killed 15 people was also linked to Islamic terrorists.

In his message, the Catholic archbishop asked his people to pray “for the salvation of all whose lives that are still in danger, for peace for the dead, for help and healing for the injured, and for courage and patience for all who are called to help them.”

“Please don’t despair and be that loving presence of Christ where you are, be a witness of hope in these dark times. I also ask you to exercise due care and discretion for your personal and public safety,” Pezzi said.

Follow Charles Collins on X: @CharlesinRome