Francis condemns Paris attacks as 'inhuman,' Vatican says world needs mercy

by Joshua J. McElwee

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Pope Francis has joined leaders around the world in condemning Friday night's horrific terrorist attacks in Paris, saying they left him "shaken and pained" and are inhuman and unjustifiable.

Vatican spokesman Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi also separately called on people to resist allowing the terrorists to make them frightened or fearful but to instead seek the "message of mercy, that love of God which leads to mutual love and reconciliation."

Francis spoke about the attacks in a brief telephone interview Saturday with the Italian television network Tv2000, which is overseen by the Italian bishops' conference.

"I am shaken and pained," the pontiff told the network. "I do not understand but these things are difficult to understand."

"I am shaken, pained, and I pray," he continued. "I am very close to the much loved French people, I am close to the families of the victims and I pray for all of them."

Asked by the interviewer about his frequent remark that there is a third world war happening "piece by piece" globally, Francis responded: "This is a piece. There are not justifications for these things."

"This is not human," said the pope. "For this, I am close to all of France, which I love very much."

Lombardi spoke Saturday in an impromptu press briefing at the Vatican. The spokesman made an eloquent statement calling for people not to give into fear in light of the attacks, and saying the upcoming Jubilee year of mercy is now "even more necessary."

"These murderers, possessed by a senseless hatred, are called ‘terrorists’ precisely because they want to spread terror," said Lombardi. "If we let ourselves be frightened, they will have already reached their first objective. This, then, is one more reason to resist with determination and courage the temptation to fear."

"It goes without saying that we must be cautious, and not irresponsible: we must take precautions that are reasonable," said the spokesman. "Nevertheless, we must go on living by building peace and mutual trust."

"I would say that the Jubilee of Mercy shows itself even more necessary," he continued. "A message of mercy, that love of God which leads to mutual love and reconciliation: This is precisely the answer we must give in times of temptation to mistrust."

Information about the Paris attacks is still developing, but most reporting indicates that about three explosions and six mass shootings occurred at different locations throughout the city late Friday evening. At last report, at least 128 people were killed, with many more wounded.

French President François Hollande has announced a national state of emergency and immediately closed the country's borders to prevent escape of any of the attackers.

The so-called Islamic state claimed responsibility on Saturday morning for the attacks and said they were in response to French policy in Syria, according to multiple reports.

The Vatican released its first statement on the attack late Friday evening, saying those in the city-state are "shocked by this new manifestation of maddening, terrorist violence and hatred which we condemn in the most radical way together with the Pope and all those who love peace."

"This is an attack on peace for all humanity, and it requires a decisive, supportive response on the part of all of us as we counter the spread the homicidal hatred in all of its forms," read that statement, made by Lombardi.

Paris Cardinal André Vingt-Trois called for unity among those in the city in a statement Friday, and said he is asking Catholic parishes to observe days of mourning and prayer on Saturday and Sunday.

"Faced with the violence of men, may we receive the grace of a firm heart, without hatred," Vingt-Trois asked. "May the moderation, temperance and control that has been shown so far, be confirmed in the weeks and months to come; let no one indulge in panic or hatred."

"We ask that grace be the artisan of peace," he asked. "We need never despair of peace if we build on justice."

[Joshua J. McElwee is NCR Vatican correspondent. His email address is Follow him on Twitter: @joshjmac.]

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