Pope denounces 'homicidal madness' after attacks in Berlin, Ankara

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Expressing
his condolences to victims and their families, Pope Francis called for an end
to terrorism following a string of deadly attacks in Berlin and Ankara.

Similar to an attack with a truck that took place in
July in Nice, France,
a tractor-trailer veered into the crowded Breitscheidplatz Christmas market in Berlin and plowed through bystanders, killing 12 people and wounding nearly 50.

In a Dec. 20 telegram sent by
Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, to Archbishop Heiner Koch of Berlin, the pope
prayed for the families of the dead and the wounded, “assuring his
closeness in their pain.”

“Pope Francis joins all
people of good will who are working
so that the homicidal madness of terrorism does not find any more room
in our world,” Cardinal Parolin wrote.

Cardinal Parolin said the pope
received news of the attack with “profound emotion” and joined the
families of the victims in their mourning and “entrusts the dead to the
mercy of God.”

Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising, Germany, president of the Commission of
the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community, said news of the attack in
Berlin had “deeply
shocked me” and called on the people of Germany to “hold together and
stand united as a society.”

“The violence
on the Christmas market is the opposite of what visitors were seeking. My
compassion goes to the relatives of the dead and injured. For all of them, I
will pray,” he said Dec. 20.

Police detained an
asylum-seeker from Pakistan who was near the attack. However, as of Dec. 20,
authorities said they are unsure whether he was the driver of the truck.

The attack in Berlin occurred not
long after the
assassination of Russia’s ambassador to Turkey, Andrey Karlov, by a lone gunman during the opening
of an art exhibition in Ankara.

Mevlut Mert Altintas, an
off-duty Turkish policeman, shot Karlov several times, shouting “Allahu
akbar (God is great). Do not forget Aleppo! Do not forget Syria! Do not forget
Aleppo! Do not forget Syria!”

The gunman was later shot and killed by
police. Several
family members and the gunman’s
roommate were detained by investigators seeking a possible connection with
terrorist groups.

Cardinal Parolin conveyed the
pope’s condolences to President Vladimir Putin of Russia, saying he was
“saddened to learn of the violent attack in Ankara.”

“In commending his
soul to almighty God, Pope Francis assures you and all the people of the
Russian Federation of his prayers and spiritual solidarity at this time,”
Cardinal Parolin wrote.

Vatican also told journalists that Archbishop Paul Gallagher, Vatican secretary
for relations with states, telephoned the Russian ambassador to the Holy See, Alexander Avdeev, to
“express his condolences for the murder of the Russian ambassador to Turkey.”

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Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

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