31 August 2021, The Tablet

Pope urges prayer, fasting for Afghanistan

Pope urges prayer, fasting for Afghanistan

Pope Francis has called for prayers for Afghanistan.
CNS photo/Paul Haring

Following the suicide attack at Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport on Thursday last week, Pope Francis appealed for “prayer and fasting” for Afghanistan. More than 100 people were killed in the attack claimed by Islamic State, including 13 US Service members and 90 Afghans. Those killed were among the vast crowds besieging the airport trying to escape the country following the Taliban takeover. In a catastrophic humiliation for the United States and its Western allies, the Islamist extremist Taliban marched into the city on 15 August when US President Joe Biden withdrew US forces before safeguarding civilians.

 “I appeal to all: intensify your prayer and practice fasting,” urged Pope Francis, during the Angelus on 29 August. Speaking from the window of the Apostolic Palace, he said he participated in the suffering “of all those who mourn for the people who lost their lives in the suicide attacks that took place last Thursday.”

“I ask everyone to continue to help those in need and to pray that dialogue and solidarity can lead to the establishment of a peaceful and fraternal coexistence,” he pleaded. “I’m serious. Prayer and fasting, prayer and penance. Now is the time to do it.”

The bishops’ conferences in the European Union and France urged political leaders to welcome Afghan refugees fleeing their homeland after the Taliban takeover, especially those who had worked with foreigners there.

“All the states of the European Union—and the European Union itself—have to do everything possible to save as many people as possible and also to welcome them inside the EU member countries,” said Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, head of the EU bishops’ conference, Comece.

The cardinal opposed building refugee camps in countries bordering Afghanistan. “We know that these countries are politically unstable and that there is radical Islamism in these countries,” he told Vatican News. 

France’s bishops welcomed President Emmanuel Macron's pledge to take in Afghans who had worked for France and urged French Catholics to pray for them and for the French soldiers who had lost their lives to help them.

Afghan refugees should be “offered to integrate into our nation as much as they want” conference head Archbishop Éric de Moulins-Beaufort said in a statement. He also asked Catholics not to forget other countries in distress such as Ethiopia, Lebanon and Haiti.

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