ROME (Zenit): Pope John Paul II has condemned the siege of the school in Beslan, southern Russia, which resulted in more than 300 deaths, calling it an attack of “pitiless aggression” against defenceless children and families.
In a telegram sent in his name by Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Pope said: “Once again, His Holiness deplores all forms of terrorism and hopes that the whirlwind of hatred and violence will not prevail’.
On September 4, the Pope sent a message to the Russian authorities, through the Holy See’s representative, Archbishop Antonio Mennini, to express his “affection to the Russian people at this time of distress and anguish”.
About 400 people, including more than 150 children, were killed on September 3 in the bloody end to a siege of the school in North Ossetia by terrorist gunmen.
Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro Valls said upon receiving the tragic news of the outcome of the hostage-taking, the Pope retired to pray for the dead and wounded.
The apostolic nuncio in Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan, Archbishop Claudio Gugerotti, said that “an international pact and an interreligious agreement between the creeds present in the Caucasus region” are necessary to “avoid this area becoming the detonator of larger conflicts”.