Pope Francis, condemning the “blind violence” of the terrorist attacks in Brussels, offered his prayers to the victims, the injured, their families and all those offering assistance in the aftermath of the bombings.
Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, sent the pope’s condolences to Archbishop Jozef De Kesel of Mechelen-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.”
Jesuit Fr Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, told reporters the attacks in Brussels would not lead to any changes in Pope Francis’ Holy Week and Easter schedule. Already for the Year of Mercy, especially after the November terrorist attacks in Paris, the Italian police presence at the Vatican has been increased.
Three nearly simultaneous attacks — two at the Brussels airport and one on the Brussels area of Maalbeek, near where much of the European Union is based — left at least 26 dead and dozens more injured. At least one of the airport attacks was attributed to a suicide bomber.
The Associated Press reported that a spokesman for the Brussels Metro said 15 people were killed and 55 injured in an explosion on a train, and Belgian media reported at least 11 dead in two explosions at the airport, with many others injured. No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attacks, but European security officials had been bracing for an attack for weeks, AP reported.
After the attacks, Belgium raised its terror alert to the highest level. A day earlier, gunmen in Bamako, Mali, targeted a hotel that was serving as the headquarters of EU troops who were there to train the country’s military. Mali and other West African countries have been under attack by Islamic extremists.
Catholic Relief Services, which has programs in Mali, announced that its staffers were safe after the attack.