Pope Francis condemns ‘cruel fundamentalism’ of Belgian terrorists23 March 2016 | by Catholic News Service
Pope Francis spoke at his weekly audience about the violence and horror of the latest terrorist attacks
Today Pope Francis condemned the “abominations” and “cruel fundamentalism” of the Belgian terrorists responsible for killing 34 and injuring more than 200 people in yesterday’s attack in Brussels.
During his weekly general audience, the Pope assured victims and their families of his prayers and asked God to convert those who adhere to violent extremism.
"I once again appeal to all people of good will to unite in the unanimous condemnation of these cruel abominations that are causing only death, terror and horror,” Francis said.
"I ask everyone to persevere in prayer and to ask the Lord in this Holy Week to comfort the hearts afflicted and convert the hearts of these people blinded by this cruel fundamentalism," he continued.
He ended his appeal by leading the crowd in praying a Hail Mary, and asking them to pray, in silence, for the dead, wounded, their families, and for all the Belgian people.
The Pope said he had been following the news of the bombings with a “sorrowful heart” after three nearly simultaneous attacks - two at Brussels airport and one on the underground - ripped through the European capital. Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attacks.
Soon after the attacks, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, sent the pope's condolences to Archbishop Jozef De Kesel of Brussels.
"The Holy Father again condemns the blind violence which causes so much suffering, and he implores from God the gift of peace," the message said.
The Pope "entrusts to God's mercy those who died and, in prayer, he shares the pain of their loved ones," the message said. "He expresses his deepest sympathy to the injured and their families, as well as for all those providing assistance, "asking the Lord to give them comfort and consolation amid this ordeal".
Vatican spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, told reporters the attacks in Brussels would not lead to any changes in Pope Francis' Holy Week and Easter schedule. Italian police presence at the Vatican has been increased, however, since the Pope announced the Holy Year of Mercy and after the November terrorist attacks in Paris.
A Belgian bishops' conference staffer, Father Geert Lesage, told Catholic News Service he expected Catholic clergy to visit sites of the attacks to offer pastoral care, as well as to organise special Masses as soon as security conditions permitted.
He added, however, that all mobile phone connections were now down in Brussels, making it impossible to obtain news of Catholic victims or damage to church property.
Father Charles De Clercq, a Brussels priest, told Cathobel he had been in the first car of the bombed Metro train, which had been "plunged into darkness and filled with smoke" after the explosion.
"Smashed windows fell on my knees - there was light, smoke and shouts. The driver arrived after two minutes with a lamp and made the passengers leave via an emergency window," the priest said.
"On the floor, passengers were curled up, obviously in pain. They could have been crushed by those in flight. I knew there'd been two explosions in the morning at Zaventem [airport], so I knew there was a real possibility this was also an attack."
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