English archbishop offers prayers, sympathy for victims of London attack

IMAGE: CNS photo/Will Oliver, EPA

By Simon Caldwell

MANCHESTER, England (CNS) — Archbishop Peter Smith of Southwark,
the archdiocese that covers London south of the River Thames, where a terrorist
attack June 3 claimed 7 lives and injured 48 people, offered prayers for the
victims and survivors.

“Following the tragic attack on
innocent people last Saturday evening in the Borough, we pray for those who
have been killed and those who were injured, some critically, and I offer our
sympathy to their families, friends and colleagues,” Archbishop Smith said in a
June 6 statement.

The incident unfolded, authorities
said, when three men in a van mowed down people on the London Bridge and then left
the vehicle to go on a killing spree in Borough Market, a popular restaurant and
bar district located south of the river. Some people in the market area attempted
to stop the attackers by throwing chairs and bottles at them, police said. The
three men were shot and killed by police at the scene.

“I want to thank the police, the
other emergency services and members of the public who rushed to help the
victims,” said the archbishop, who serves as the vice president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of
England and Wales.

Archbishop Smith praised first
responders for their courage under difficult circumstances “despite the
danger to themselves, and we pay tribute to them and give them our heartfelt
thanks for all that they have done.”

“We must remember and pray
for their families too as they wait anxiously for the return of loved ones
involved in these terrible incidents,” the statement said. “It has
been a reminder to us that at times of adversity over the centuries in this
country, the whole community has come together to help and support victims of
crime and warfare with extraordinary generosity and selflessness.”

In a June 5 statement sent to
Catholic News Service, Bishop
Mark Davies of Shrewsbury, England, said under current circumstances,
“This is a moment when we need to recall the Christian values on which
British society is based.”

“We have already seen how acts
of selfless charity, the recognition of the stranger as our neighbor and
gestures of solidarity have been shown to be stronger than the terror of
murderous hate and violence,” he said.

“We must find our security in
these true values which make us stronger than those who seek to terrorize and
divide us,” he added. “I am sure these Christian foundations of British society
can withstand any threat of division between individuals or communities in this

Bishop Philip Egan of Portsmouth, England, said in a
June 5 telephone interview with CNS that he suspected “aggressive
secularism” might be partly to blame for the rise of radical Islam in the
United Kingdom.

“There are many factors in why
somebody should become radical, but it (Islamic terrorism) is a Satanic and evil
way of drawing attention to suffering and to the lack of God in life,” Bishop
Egan said.

“It is a disruption to draw
attention,” he continued. “I don’t think we understand it properly, I don’t think
we have a clear view of why people do these horrible things, but I think part of
it is a reaction to living in a highly materialistic, highly secularized
society where everything is focused on work, on the horizontal, and the
critical theological values are somehow blocked out.”

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