POPE Francis condemned the killings of at least 12 people at the Paris offices of a satirical weekly newspaper yesterday (January 7) and denounced all “physical and moral” obstacles to the peaceful co-existence of nations, religions and cultures.
“The Holy Father expresses the firmest condemnation of the horrible attack,” said a statement from the Vatican spokesman Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, who added that the killings had deeply disturbed “all persons who love peace, well beyond the borders of France”.
Catholic News Service reported that, earlier in the day, three masked gunmen attacked the office of Charlie Hebdo weekly. Muslims often have criticised the paper’s caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad.
Zenit reported that video taken by witnesses showed the gunmen shouting “God is great” and “We have avenged the prophet!” before fleeing the scene.
Catholic News Service said French President Francois Hollande called the slayings “a terrorist attack without a doubt”.
The Vatican statement said Pope Francis “exhorts all to oppose with every means the spread of hatred and every form of violence, physical and moral, that destroys human life, violates the dignity of the person, radically undermines the fundamental good of peaceful co-existence among persons and peoples, notwithstanding differences of nationality, religion and culture”.
“Whatever the motivation might be, homicidal violence is abominable, is never justifiable,” the Vatican statement said. “Every instigation to hatred should be rejected, respect for the other cultivated.”
Fr Lombardi said Pope Francis expressed his “spiritual solidarity and support” for all those “committed to serving peace, justice and law, in order to heal the deepest sources and causes of hatred, in this painful and dramatic moment, in France and every part of the world marked by tension and violence”.
Zenit reported that the bishops’ conference of France also released a statement condemning the deadly attack.
The bishops of France expressed their “profound grief and horror” at the attacks.
“The Church in France addresses her thoughts first to the families and relatives of the victims, faced with the horror and incomprehension of [the attack],” the statement read.
“Such terror is obviously unspeakable. Nothing can justify such violence. Moreover, it touches the freedom of expression, an essential element of our society.“
The bishops called for more efforts to “redouble” the quest for peace and brotherhood in a “situation where anger can invade us”.
As news was first released on the attack, vice-director of the Holy See Press Office Fr Ciro Benedettini said the Holy Father would most likely send a message regarding the attack to Archbishop of Paris Cardinal André Vingt-Trois.
Fr Ciro told journalists the attack was a “double act of violence, appalling because it is both an attack against people as well as an attack against freedom of the press”.
CNS and Zenit