ROME – In the wake of the terrorist attack in Barcelona that claimed the lives of 13 people and left many seriously wounded, Cardinal Juan José Omella – the archbishop of the city – visited the wounded in the Hospital del Mar where they are being treated.
Speaking to Spanish television ‘Herrera en COPE,’ Omella expressed his dismay before “all the pain of so many innocent people” and said that Catalonia, Spain, and the whole world are left speechless “in this painful situation that has affected us all so much.”
Barcelona is the capital of the Catalonia region of Spain, which has its own distinctive culture and language.
The cardinal insisted that violence must never be done in the name of religion and called for “no more attacks in the name of God.”
“God is the God of life and love in all religions, especially in ours, in the Catholic world, where God dies to save man. The path of destruction is not religion nor does it come from God and can never be tolerated,” Omella said.
“Religion has to lead to coexistence and peace, those who have severed from that path are those who have damaged faith and religion.”
After receiving news of the attack, Omella announced he was suspending a set of spiritual exercises in which he was participating during the summer in order to “return to Barcelona and be with his people in this moment of pain,” according to a tweet from the official archdiocesan account.
During the 25-minute visit to the hospital, the cardinal met several victims and told reporters that what most impacted him was to see “the pain of innocent people.”
— EsglésiaBarcelona (@esglesiabcn) August 18, 2017
Among them was a man whose wife and children were severely wounded in the attack and in intensive care. “His wife and children had come to spend the day. He was working and had to go to the hospital and found his wife in the operating room and his poor son in the emergency room,” Omella said. “It is painful to see how your life can be broken in a few minutes, by terrorists who do not know what is inside their heads.”
In the interview Omella said he was touched by the outburst of friendship and solidarity in the local community and media after the terrorist attack on August 17, when a van ran over people walking in the popular tourist attraction site, Las Ramblas.
The cardinal said that he had received many messages showing support from all corners of the world. In a telegram signed by Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, and sent to the Archdiocese of Barcelona, Pope Francis expressed his “deep sadness” for those who lost their life as a consequence of such an “inhuman act,” and offered prayers for them and their families.
“In this moment of sadness and pain, he (the Holy Father) offers his support and closeness to the many wounded, to your families and to all of the Catalan and Spanish society,” the telegram said.
The pope also condemned once more the “blind violence, which deeply offends the Creator,” and prayed that world leaders work with cooperation and determination to bring peace.
Bishop Manuel Sánchez Monge of Santander, Spain was among the many local bishops who expressed closeness and support to those who were affected by the terror attacks in Barcelona and issued a “resounding condemnation” for all acts of violence in the name of God.
In the United Stated the conference of bishops released a statement condemning “this morally heinous act” and offering their solidarity to the Spanish people in “this terrible time of loss and grief.”
“Terrorist attacks on innocent civilians can never be justified,” said the statement signed by Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces, Chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace. “To directly attack innocent men, women and children is utterly reprehensible.”
Omella confirmed that there will be a Sunday Mass to honor the victims and their families in the Basilica of the Holy Family on August 20. “May the Lord change the heart of all those people who plot to do evil, sothat hopefully they become builders of peace and not death,” he concluded.
After the attack in Barcelona, another car ran into pedestrians in the Spanish town of Cambrils. The police were able to kill the five suspected terrorists but six civilians were injured and a police officer was also hurt in the crossfire. According to reports, various controlled explosions took place in the area and the attack was coordinated with the one in Barcelona.