By Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — “This is not human,” Pope Francis said after a night of terror in Paris left more than 120 people dead and more than 200 people injured.
As French authorities investigated the almost simultaneous attacks Nov. 13 on at least six different sites — inside a concert hall, outside a soccer stadium, and at four cafes and restaurants — Pope Francis spoke briefly Nov. 14 with the television station of the Italian bishops’ conference.
“I am shaken and pained,” the pope said. “I don’t understand, but these things are difficult to understand, how human beings can do this. That is why I am shaken, pained and am praying.”
The director of the television station recalled how the pope has spoken many times about a “third world war being fought in pieces.”
“This is a piece,” the pope responded. “There are no justifications for these things.”
On social media, Islamic State militants claimed responsibility, but Pope Francis insisted there can be no “religious or human” excuse for killing innocent people and sowing terror. “This is not human.”
French authorities reported Nov. 14 that eight terrorists were dead after the night of attacks; six of them committed suicide and two were killed by police, who stormed the concert hall where the terrorists had taken hostages and where the majority of victims died.
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.
He urged all parishes to strictly follow the security guidelines of the police, but also asked for special memorial Masses over the weekend. He said he would celebrate a special Mass for the victims Nov. 15 in Notre Dame Cathedral.
“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.”
Just a few hours after the attacks occurred, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, issued a statement saying the Vatican was “shocked by this new manifestation of maddening terrorist violence and hatred, which we condemn in the most radical way.”
Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, sent a message in the pope’s name to Cardinal Vingt-Trois calling the attacks “horrific” and relaying the pope’s prayers for the victims, their families and the entire nation.
“He invokes God, the father of mercy, asking that he welcome the victims into the peace of his light and bring comfort and hope to the injured and their families,” Cardinal Parolin wrote.
The pope also “vigorously condemns violence, which cannot solve anything, and he asks God to inspire thoughts of peace and solidarity in all.”
Father Lombardi was asked about security concerns throughout Europe, and particularly whether the terrorist attacks would impact plans for the Year of Mercy, which is scheduled to begin Dec. 8.
“These murderers, possessed by senseless hatred, are called terrorists precisely because they want to spread terror,” Father Lombardi responded in a statement. “If we let ourselves be frightened, they will have already reached their first objective.”
“It goes without saying that we must be cautious, and not irresponsible,” he said, but “we must go on living by building peace and mutual trust.”
“I would say that the Jubilee of Mercy shows itself even more necessary,” Father Lombardi said. Preaching God’s love and mercy also is a call for people to love one another and reconcile with each other. It “is precisely the answer we must give in times of temptation to mistrust.”