MUNICH — The archbishop of Munich has called for prayers for the victims of Friday’s deadly shooting at a shopping mall and condemned acts of violence that “poison” society with fear.
“This horrific crime deeply affects me and fills me with profound grief,” Cardinal Reinhard Marx is quoted as saying in a July 23 statement by the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising.
“My prayers are with the victims and their families,” said the head of the German Bishops’ Conference, adding: “I hope that the many injured can return home soon.”
At least nine people were killed and nearly 30 injured on Friday evening, after an 18-year-old gunman opened fire at the Olympia shopping mall in Munich, the BBC reported.
The German teenager of Iranian descent, whom The Independent identifies as Ali David Sonboly, was later found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Police believe the teenager had no known ties to the Islamic State, but the BBC reported he may have been inspired by Anders Behring Breivik, the mass murderer who killed 77 people in Norway in 2011. Friday’s shooting spree came on the five-year anniversary of Breivik’s massacre.
Friday’s incident also follows closely on the heels of two other attacks: A teenage Afghan Islamist went on an axe rampage in Würzburg, Germany, on Monday night, leaving several passengers severely wounded. And the previous week, 84 people were killed in Nice, France, when a Tunisian man intentionally drove a large truck through a crowded beach street at high speed during a Bastille Day celebration. Both of these attacks are believed to have been inspired by ISIS.
Cardinal Marx decried how, “on an almost daily basis, we are witness to an unprecedented unleashing of violence and hate.”
“In many places, acts of violence poison our society’s climate with fear and terror,” he said.
The German cardinal has called on people to pray with him for those affected by violence and terror.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who had served as archbishop of Munich and Freising as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger from 1977 to 1982, has reportedly also responded to the attacks, via the prefect of the papal household, Archbishop Georg Gaenswein.
Having been informed about the incident, Benedict XVI “prays for the innocent victims and expresses condolences and closeness to the families,” the Vatican Insider reported.
The head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, has also offered his condolences and prayers for those affected by the tragedy in the Bavarian capital.
“Our resolve turns toward an unwavering desire to be witnesses of love alive in the world,” the Louisville, Ky., archbishop said in a July 22 statement. “Against this resolve the forces of hatred and division cannot prevail.”
“Let us draw strength from the courage of the victims and first responders in Munich, so that we may continue down the path of peace, rejecting violence and that which seeks to divide us.”
Shortly after Friday’s attack, which reportedly began just before 6 pm local time, the local Church stepped up to help, with 10 emergency pastoral-care workers caring for those affected by the massacre.
After the shooting, many people were trapped for hours, as central Munich was placed on lockdown, and many found refuge in one of the many Catholic churches in the vicinity.
In St. Michael’s Church, located in the heart of Munich, the local Jesuits organized for 40 people, mostly tourists, to spend the night in temporary rooms.
Additional prayers were held on Saturday at the church, which offered pastoral conversations and reflections for those affected — as will most parishes in the archdiocese, especially in and around the Bavarian capital.
On Sunday, special prayers were planned during Mass at the Munich Cathedral.
Pope Francis also prayed on Sunday for the victims, responding to the recent acts of violence in Germany and Afghanistan, expressing his closeness to the families of the victims, and stressing the importance of prayer in the face of threats against “safety and peace.”
“At this time, our spirit is once more shaken by the sad news relating to the deplorable acts of terrorism and violence which have caused suffering and death,” the Pope said in an appeal after the weekly Angelus at the Vatican.
In his July 24 address, he spoke in reference to “the dramatic events in Munich, Germany, and Kabul, Afghanistan, where the lives of numerous innocent people have been lost.”
“I am near to the families of the victims and the wounded,” he said. “I invite you to join in my prayer, in order that the Lord may inspire all good and fraternal resolutions.”
In the face of seemingly “insurmountable” difficulties and dark “prospects of safety and peace,” the Pope said, our prayer should be “all the more persistent.”
Anian Christoph Wimmer contributed to this story.