ROME — Pope Francis repeated his condemnation of Friday’s terrorist attacks in Paris, saying on Sunday that using God’s name to justify violence is a “blasphemy.”
“I want to strongly reaffirm that the path of violence and hatred doesn’t solve the problems of humanity!” Francis said during his prepared remarks after the weekly Angelus prayer in St. Peter’s Square. Then, going off-script, he declared, “To use the name of God to justify this path is a blasphemy!”
The pope’s comments echoed those he made Saturday during a telephone interview with an Italian TV network, when he said there was no “religious or human justification for these things.”
“This is not human,” a notably moved Francis said, reiterating his view that the attacks were another step in what he believes is a Third World War being fought piecemeal around the globe. He said he finds such attacks “hard to understand.”
During his Sunday address, the pope expressed his closeness to the families of the victims, to those injured, and to French President François Hollande before asking the thousands gathered to offer a moment of silence and join him in prayer to “entrust in the hands of God the helpless victims of this tragedy.”
More than 120 people were killed and 350 wounded in coordinated multiple terrorist attacks in the French capital that targeted civilians at a concert hall, restaurants, and a sports stadium where President Francois Hollande was attending a soccer game.
At least three bombs and six shooting attacks have been confirmed. The terrorist group ISIS claimed responsibility, calling the assaults “miracles.”
Just hours after the attacks Friday night, the Holy See joined other nations in condemning the attacks.
“We are shocked by this new manifestation of maddening, terrorist violence and hatred which we condemn in the most radical way together with the Pope and all those who love peace,” said a statement released Friday evening in Rome by the Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi.
The full text of the statement:
Here in the Vatican we are following the terrible news from Paris. We are shocked by this new manifestation of maddening, terrorist violence and hatred which we condemn in the most radical way together with the Pope and all those who love peace. We pray for the victims and the wounded, and for all the French people. This is an attack on peace for all humanity, and it requires a decisive, supportive response on the part of all of us as we counter the spread of homicidal hatred in all of its forms.
Catholic leaders and dioceses in the United States and elsewhere took to social media to offer prayers and support for the victims.
I have heard reports that over 140 have been killed in Paris. May their souls through the mercy of God, rest in eternal peace. #PrayforParis
— Archbishop Fisher OP (@AnthonyFisherOP) November 14, 2015
— Catholic Archdiocese of Washington, DC (@WashArchdiocese) November 14, 2015
May St Denis and Our Lady of Lourdes intercede tonight for the people of Paris.
— James D Conley (@bishop_conley) November 13, 2015
— U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (@USCCB) September 25, 2015
Before going to sleep tonight think of your family and loved ones and #prayforparis
— Eamon Martin (@ArchbishopEamon) November 13, 2015
My prayers are with the people of Paris tonight. Let us pray for the victims, the hostages, and their families. #PrayForParis
— Bishop Frank Caggiano (@BishopCaggiano) November 13, 2015
On Saturday, Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, called for a “charitable and coherent” response that helps “build bridges between the peoples.”
“Be on guard: these murderers, possessed by a senseless hatred, are called ‘terrorists’ precisely because they want to spread terror,” Lombardi said. “If we let ourselves be frightened, they will have already reached their first objective.”
“It goes without saying that we must be cautious, and not irresponsible: we must take precautions that are reasonable,” he said to journalists at an impromptu press conference. “Nevertheless, we must go on living by building peace and mutual trust.”
As to whether the Paris attacks would influence the pope’s decision about whether to travel to the war-torn Central African Republic, a former French colony, Lombardi said it “depends on the Holy Father,” but events surrounding papal visits are always taken into account. French defense officials have urged the pope to cancel that leg of his Africa trip.
“This was a dramatic event that wasn’t predicted, so it can have an impact in the world and in Europe,” he said. “But the trip is a separate thing.”
Given France’s status as a prominent Catholic country, Lombardi was asked if the Paris terrorism was an attack on Catholicism. He rejected the idea.
“This is not an attack against Catholicism; this is an attack on humanity as a whole,” he said. “[Paris] is a modern, secular city of today’s world. This is an attack against humanity, the coexistence between peoples, [against] peace, the whole human community.”
Paris Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois said the French are all too familiar with this sort of suffering.
“After the attacks of last January, after the attack in Beirut this week, and many others in these past months, including in Nigeria and other African countries, our country knows anew the pain of grief and must face the barbarism spread by fanatical groups,” he said.
In a written statement distributed through social media, Vingt-Trois invited Catholics of Paris to pray, and for all parishes to comply with the recommendations of civil authorities that residents stay home and for schools, universities, theaters, gyms, and other institutions to remain closed.
Ving-Trois will celebrate Mass at the Cathedral of Notre Dame to be broadcast live throughout France.
Around the world, Catholic leaders reacted in similar tones.
Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminister, England, said he prays that Paris “will courageously recover its poise as one of the great cities.”
“I pray, too, for the Muslim communities in France, and here in England, that they may not be victimized because of the actions of these violent and ruthless extremists, but strive always for the way of peace and cooperation with the wider society,” wrote Nichols.
The Italian Bishops Conference asked every parish to dedicate Sunday’s Mass to the victims and their families.
Australian Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane sent out a series of tweets beginning with:
Yet again the blood flows in Paris, city of light, city of blood. La Grande Dame is wounded. Can blood become light? #Prayers4Paris
— Arch Mark Coleridge (@ArchbishopMark) November 14, 2015