Cardinal Vincent Nichols and the Bishop of Elphin, Kevin Doran, have offered prayers for the victims of the mosque shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand, which left at least 49 people dead.
Cardinal Nichols said: “The news of the massacre in the New Zealand mosques is deeply shocking and has caused us all great pain. We pray for the many victims, for the wounded and for the whole community, which has been severely affected by this act of terrorism. May God free us from these tragedies and sustain the efforts of all those who work for peace, harmony and coexistence.”
Meanwhile, Bishop Doran has asked for prayers this weekend for the victims of the attacks.
“I am deeply saddened at this morning’s news of a savage attack on two Muslim communities at prayer in New Zealand. All of us, of whatever religious tradition, can identify with what that might mean for a congregation gathered for worship,” he said.
“Responsibility for these attacks clearly rests with some violent individuals. At another level, however, there are serious questions to be answered, including in our own society, by those who unjustly blame the entire Muslim community for the extremism of some. It is just as unacceptable to speak and write in racist or sectarian terms against Muslims as it is to speak and write in similar terms about Christians.
“May the merciful God gather to himself all who have died while at their Friday prayers and console those who have been hurt. I ask that they be remembered in our churches this weekend.”
The shootings took place at or near the Al Noor Mosque, where 41 people were killed, and at the Linwood Mosque, where seven were killed. One more person subsequently died at Christchurch Hospital. Muslims had gathered at the mosques for Friday prayers. Some of those killed were children, it has been reported.
The terror attack started at around 1:40pm local time, sparking a massive mobilisation by police. Mike Bush, New Zealand police commissioner, announced at 9pm that a man in his late 20s had been charged with murder and would appear in the Christchurch District Court the next day.
Some three-and-a-half hours after the attacks began, the New Zealand bishops released a message, addressed to the nation’s Muslim community, via social media.
‘We hold you in prayer as we hear the terrible news of violence against Muslims at mosques in Christchurch,’ the bishops wrote.
‘We are profoundly aware of the positive relationships we have with Islamic people in this land, and we are particularly horrified that this has happened at a place and time of prayer.
‘We are deeply saddened that people have been killed and injured, and our hearts go out to them, their families and wider community. We wish you to be aware of our solidarity with you in the face of such violence.’
The bishops signed off their message ‘Peace, Salaam.’
A message sent by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, on behalf of Pope Francis, said the pope was ‘deeply saddened to learn of the injury and loss of life cause by the senseless acts of violence’ at the mosques.
‘He assures all New Zealanders, and in particular the Muslim community, of his heartfelt solidarity in the wake of these attacks.’ He also offered prayers and blessings to those injured, those grieving, those who died and emergency personnel.
Picture: Members of a SWAT team push back members of the public following a shooting at the Al Noor Mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, on 15th March 2019. New Zealand’s Catholic bishops have expressed their horror and distress at terrorist attacks on two mosques in Christchurch; at least 49 people were killed. (CNS photo/Martin Hunter, Reuters).