VATICAN CITY (CNS): Pope John Paul II has deplored a string of deadly car bomb attacks on five Catholic churches in Iraq, calling on Muslims and Christians to unite against “all forms of violence” and to work together to bring peace and stability to the country.
In a telegram released by the Vatican, the Pope said he was saddened and “deeply struck” on hearing news of the attacks on August 1 that left at least 11 people dead and 50 others wounded.
The wave of explosions ripped through churches in Baghdad and the northern city of Mosul as parishioners were attending or leaving their places of worship.
Iraq accused a terrorist group linked to al-Qa’ida with the attacks.
Retired French Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, who has travelled to Iraq as a papal envoy for peace, told the Italian newspaper La Repubblica on August 2 that the attacks did not just affect Christians but “all people because they involve the fundamental freedom of religion”.
Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, who is head of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes, told the same newspaper that it was “unimaginable” that Christianity would become a target when the Church and the Pope have, “with tireless dedication, always defended the freedom of religion and of humanity”.