Terror attacks spur pope, others to denounce 'path of violence'

People react as they look at the Bataclan music hall in Paris Nov. 16, the site of one of the terrorist attacks that killed 129 people in the city and 43 in Beirut, Lebanon.

CNS PHOTO | PAUL HARING

People react as they look at the Bataclan music hall in Paris Nov. 16, the site of one of the terrorist attacks that killed 129 people in the city and 43 in Beirut, Lebanon.

November 23, 2015
CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE

The Nov. 13 terrorist attacks in Paris were a "barbarity," leading us to ask ourselves "how the human heart can plan and carry out such horrible events," Pope Francis said Nov. 15.

"The path of violence and hatred cannot resolve the problems of humanity, and using the name of God to justify this path is blasphemy," the pope said after reciting the Angelus with visitors in St. Peter's Square.

Pope Francis asked the thousands of people who gathered for the Sunday midday prayer to observe a moment of silence and to join him in reciting a Hail Mary.

"May the Virgin Mary, mother of mercy, give rise in the hearts of everyone thoughts of wisdom and proposals for peace," he said.

"We ask her to protect and watch over the dear French nation, the first daughter of the Church, over Europe and the whole world."

The attacks in Paris Nov. 13 - attacks the French government said were carried out by three teams of Islamic State terrorists - caused the deaths of at least 129 people and left more than 350 injured, many of them critically.

"Let us entrust to the mercy of God the innocent victims of this tragedy," Pope Francis said.

Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois of Paris issued a statement calling for calm and for prayers, not only for the Paris victims, but also for the victims of recent terrorist attacks in Lebanon and in Africa.

"May no one allow himself to be defeated by panic and hatred," the cardinal said. "Let us ask for the grace of being peacemakers. We must never lose our hope for peace if we work for justice."

With some 1,500 inside Paris' Notre Dame Cathedral and hundreds more gathered outside Nov. 15, Vingt-Trois celebrated a special Mass in memory of the victims.

The cardinal told the assembly the only Christian response to the attacks is to be "messengers of hope in the heart of human suffering."

The terrorists succeed if their actions shake Christians' hope founded on faith in Christ and on a belief that all of history, including moments of suffering, is in God's hands, he said.

The appropriate response to the "barbaric savagery" of the terrorists, he said, is "to demonstrate additional trust in our fellowmen and their dignity."

Bishop Douglas Crosby, president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, said "the impact of this horror" affects not only France, but "every segment of society throughout our world."

Canada's bishops "join our voices with those of other religious leaders who remind the world that peace, respect for the human person, and integral human development remain essential criteria for all religions and their faithful," Crosby wrote in a Nov. 16 letter to Vingt-Trois.

Other Catholic leaders around the world condemned the terrorist attacks in Paris and Beirut.

"The time has come for the world to stand united against terrorism and to confront the reasons of terrorism, such as feelings of oppression, hatred, bad education and fanaticism, with no double standards," said the Jerusalem-based Assembly of Catholic Bishops of the Holy Land.

They called for a unification of "forces of good" and "countries and followers of all religions against violence, which hits the world with increased brutality."

Otherwise, they said, it will hit everyone "sooner or later."

"We pray to the almighty for healing the wounded and consoling those who are grieving," they added. "We pray also for terror preachers and promoters so they backtrack and regret what they do."

The council denounced the violence to which Christians and other minorities in Syria and Iraq are subject and urged the international community and major powers to end war and achieve a "peaceful settlement" of the conflict.

The U.S. bishops voiced their support for those "working to build just and peaceful societies."

"Terror always seeks to separate us from those we most love," said a statement issued by the administrative committee of the U.S. bishops' conference.

Meanwhile, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., conference president, said the U.S. Church will continue to aid refugees who are fleeing violence and social ills despite calls that the country's borders should be closed to anyone but Christians.

"Our efforts are going to be to reach out to people and to serve them," Kurtz told reporters Nov. 16.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, papal spokesman, said the attacks show the Year of Mercy, which is scheduled to begin Dec. 8, is even more necessary.

Preaching God's love and mercy also is a call for people to love one another and reconcile with each other, Lombardi said. It "is precisely the answer we must give in times of temptation to mistrust."