23 March 2017, The Tablet

Pope 'deeply saddened' by Westminster terrorist attack and assures those affected of his prayers

Cardinal Nichols says his thoughts are with those killed in the attack “and for those who will mourn and be in considerable shock”

Pope Francis has offered his prayers for those affected by the terrorist attack at Westminster yesterday in which four people, including the assailant, were killed and at least 30 others injured.

In a letter sent to the Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the Vatican said Francis was "deeply saddened” to learn of the loss of life and the injuries caused by the attack.

"His Holiness Pope Francis expresses his prayerful solidarity with all those affected by the tragedy,” it said.

“Commending those who have died to the loving mercy of almighty God, His Holiness invokes divine strength and peace upon their grieving families, and he assures the nation of his prayers at this time."

Speaking to BBC Radio last night,  Cardinal Vincent Nichols said his first thoughts were with those killed in the attack “and for those who will mourn and be in considerable shock.”

In the attack, a man drove a car into pedestrians on the pavement of Westminster Bridge, killing two people, before crashing it outside parliament and trying to enter the buildings, armed with a knife. He stabbed an unarmed police officer who later died from his injuries, before the police shot him dead. The police officer was identified as 48-year-old PC Keith Palmer, a husband and father, who had 15 years service with the police.

Another of the victims has been named as Aysha Frade, a Spanish teacher aged 43, who died after being hit on Westminster bridge. American Kurt Cochran who was on holiday in London with his wife was also killed in the attack on the bridge. 

Police named the attacker as Khalid Masood, who was born in Kent, late on Thursday afternoon. 

Masood, who died in the attack, was not the subject of any current police investigations, but had a range of previous convictions. The 52-year-old was believed to have been living in the West Midlands.

The so-called Islamic State group has said it was behind the attack, describing the assailant as a "soldier for the Islamic State" in a statement released this morning by its Amaq news agency. 

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, offered his "prayers and thoughts for PC Keith Palmer and his family", in a statement given in the House of Lords on Thursday.

Addressing members of the House of Commons this morning, the Prime Minister, Theresa May paid tribute to PC Palmer describing him as “every inch a hero.”

In her statement Mrs May said that the attacked was “British born” and had once been investigated in the past in relation to violent extremism. He was not a current suspect, she said.

She also said that the “working assumption” was that the attacker was “inspired by Islamist ideology” and is though to have acted alone.

Police are reported to have made eight arrests last night during raids in Birmingham.  

Describing the incident as “an attack on free people everywhere”, Mrs May said the best response for terrorism was for people to carry on with their lives as normal.

“A response that says to the men and women who propagate this hate and evil: you will not defeat us,” she said.


PICTURE: The flag above the Houses of Parliament flies at half mast the day after a terrorist attack where police officer Keith Palmer and two members of the public died and the attacker was shot dead.

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