ROME — Pope Francis on Wednesday condemned the terrorist attack perpetrated in Paris by three gunmen who, shouting radical Islamic phrases, killed 12 people in less than five minutes, with the pontiff calling it an “abhorrent” act.

In a statement released by a Vatican spokesman, the pontiff expressed his “strongest condemnation” of the violent assault.

“Whatever the motivation behind it, homicidal violence is abhorrent, it’s never justifiable, the life and dignity of all are guaranteed and protected firmly, [and] any incitement to hatred should be refused. Respect must be cultivated,” said the statement delivered by the Rev. Federico Lombardi.

The reaction is a response to the attack suffered by the satirical weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo. Ten journalists and two police officers were killed by three hooded gunmen who entered the building, and another 20 were injured, four of them critically.

A video shot from a nearby building shows one of the men shouting “Hey! We avenged the Prophet Muhammad! We killed Charlie Hebdo,” in French, while another said, “Allahu Akbar” (an Arabic phrase that translates to “God is great”).

The attack is believed to be in retaliation to caricatures published by the paper that satirized Prophet Mohammad, a constant in the publication.

Sharing his prayers for the wounded and the families of the victims, the pope called the world to “oppose by all means the spread of hatred and all forms of violence” because it “destroys human life, violates the dignity of the people, radically undermines the fundamental good of peaceful coexistence despite differences of nationality, religion and culture.”

Pope Francis isn’t the only religious leader who spoke against the attack.

The French bishops’ conference issued a statement saying that “nothing can justify such violence.”

The Catholic leaders said the attack “violates [the right of] freedom of expression, an essential element of our society,” and called on the French government to “redouble” the efforts to promote peace and brotherhood in a “situation where anger can invade us.”

Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury, head of the Anglican Church, condemned the attack via Twitter: “#JeSuisCharlie the response to such demonic violence is love for those who suffer and virtuous action against evil.”

US President Barak Obama delivered an improvised message from the White House in which he expressed the country’s solidarity with France, calling the European nation an ally “from 9/11 on in dealing with a terrorist organization around the world that threaten us.”

Obama also said that “this was an attack on journalists, an attack on our free press that also underscores that these terrorists fear freedom of speech and freedom of the press. The values that we share with the French people — a universal belief in freedom, the freedom of expression — is something that can’t be silenced by the senseless violence of a few.”