Pope Pleads for End to ‘Homicidal Madness of Terrorism’

Francis offers prayers and condolences in wake of Berlin Christmas market attack and murder of Russian ambassador.

(photo: Franciscus Instagram)

VATICAN CITY — What are being called two major acts of terrorism in just the past 24 hours have prompted Pope Francis to again beg for an even stronger commitment to putting such bloody attacks, which have marred many parts of the world over the past 18 months, to an end.

“Pope Francis unites to all men and women of goodwill who commit so that the homicidal madness of terrorism no longer finds space in our world,” a Dec. 20 telegram from the Vatican read.

“In this sense, His Holiness implores God the merciful Father for consolation, protection and his comforting blessing.”

The note, signed by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, was addressed to Berlin Archbishop Heiner Koch after an apparent terrorist attack yesterday left 12 dead and 48 wounded.

According to CNN, a large truck barreled into crowds of shoppers at a Christmas market near the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church in Berlin’s western Breitscheidplatz neighborhood around 8pm local time Dec. 19, going roughly 40 mph.

The driver of the truck fled the scene on foot, but is believed to have been arrested about a mile and a half from the crash site. However, the man apprehended by police, a Pakistani who had sought asylum, denies the act.

A passenger was found dead inside the truck, and a tweet by the Berlin police confirms that the man was a Polish citizen, believed to be an employee of the truck company in Poland.

Berlin police have said they are confident the truck was driven into the crowd intentionally and are treating the incident as a terrorist attack, though until now no claim of responsibility has been made.

In the telegram, Pope Francis said he learned of the attack with “deep emotion” and expressed his own participation “in the mourning of their relatives, expressing his compassion and assuring of his closeness to their pain.”

“In prayer, he entrusts the deceased to the mercy of God, beseeching him for the healing of the wounded,” the telegram read, expressing gratitude to emergency security services for their “active commitment” in the situation.

The Berlin attack came on the heels of another act of terrorism, when the Russian ambassador to Turkey was assassinated Dec. 19 by an off-duty policeman, who shouted “Allahu akbar,” meaning “God is great,” after firing eight rounds at the diplomat.

The ambassador, Andrei Karlov, 62, had been giving a speech at an art gallery in Ankawa at the time of his death.

According to statements the gunman made before being shot dead, such as “Don’t forget Aleppo,” the attack is believed to have acted in retaliation for Russian involvement in Syria.

In a separate Vatican telegram, also signed by Cardinal Parolin and addressed to Russian President Vladimir Putin, Pope Francis said he was “saddened” to learn of the ambassador’s assassination.

He offered his condolences to Karlov’s family and entrusted his soul to God. The Pope assured Putin and all members of the Russian Federation of his “prayers and spiritual solidarity” at this time.

In addition, earlier this morning, Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the Vatican’s secretary for relations with the states, called the Russian ambassador to the Holy See, Alexander Avdeev, to offer his condolences for Karlov’s murder.

Read more on response of Berlin bishops here.