Pope, USCCB president pray for victims of Egyptian mosque attack

IMAGE: CNS photo/Mohamed Soliman, Reuters

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis led
pilgrims in prayer for the victims of a bombing at a mosque in Egypt’s northern
Sinai region.

Addressing thousands of people gathered in
St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis said he received news of the attack with
“great sorrow.”

“May God deliver us from these
tragedies and sustain the efforts of all those who work for peace, harmony and
coexistence,” the pope said after reciting the Angelus on the feast of
Christ the King, Nov. 26.

The president of the U.S. Conference of
Catholic Bishops was among other Catholic leaders who condemned the attack,
calling it a “monstrous terrorist attack on innocent people at

The Nov. 24 attack took place at the
Al-Rawdah Mosque in Bir al-Abd.

More than 300 people, including two dozen
children, were killed when at least 40 attackers detonated a bomb, then gunned
down worshippers as they fled. More than 120 others were wounded in what is
being described as the deadliest modern-day attack in Egypt’s history.

The Egyptian prosecutor’s office said it
believed the attack was coordinated by Islamic State militants and was
targeting Muslims who practice Sufism, or Islamic mysticism.

Remembering the victims and the wounded,
Pope Francis called on Christians to pray for those who were “so severely
affected” by the attack that occurred during prayers at the mosque.

“Those people, in that moment, prayed.
We, too, in silence, pray for them,” he said.

Following news of the bombing, Cardinal
Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, said the pope was “profoundly
grieved” by the loss of life and condemned the attack as a “wanton
act of brutality directed at innocent civilians gathered in prayer.”

Pope Francis, Cardinal Parolin wrote,
“joins all people of good will in imploring that hearts hardened by hatred
will learn to renounce the way of violence that leads to such great suffering,
and embrace the way of peace.”

In Washington the day of the attack, Cardinal
Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, USCCB president, said: “Terrorist
acts can never be justified in the name of God or any political ideology, and
the fact this attack took place at a mosque, a place of worship, is especially
offensive to God.”

“The Catholic Church in the United
States mourns with the people of Egypt at this time of tragedy, and assures
them of our prayerful solidarity,” Cardinal DiNardo said in a statement.

“We join with all those of goodwill in
prayer that these acts of terror and mass killings — these acts of grave evil
— will end and will be replaced with genuine and mutual respect for the
dignity of each and every person,” he said.

In a televised address, Egyptian President
Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi said the attack was “an attempt to stop us from our
efforts in the fight against terrorism, to destroy our efforts to stop the
terrible criminal plan that aims to destroy what is left of our region.”

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Contributing to this story was Julie Asher in Washington.

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Follow Arocho and Asher on Twitter: @arochoju and @JLAsher.

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