Francis expresses grief for killings in Yemen, faulting global indifference

Rome — Pope Francis on Sunday expressed grief for the murders of 16 people including four Catholic nuns at a home for the elderly in Yemen, saying they were victims not only of those who attacked them but also of a global system that is ignoring the violence being faced by so many.

"I express my closeness to the Missionaries of Charity in the grave grief that fell upon them two days ago with the killing of four religious," said the pontiff, speaking in his weekly Angelus address in St. Peter's Square.

"I pray for them and the other people killed in the attack, and for their kin," said Francis, exclaiming: "These are today's martyrs!

"They are not on the front pages of the newspapers; they are not news -- they give their blood for the church," said the pope. "These people are victims of the attack by those who have killed them [but] also of indifference -- of this globalization of indifference."

The attack took place Friday in the southwestern Yemeni city of Aden, where the attackers entered a facility for the elderly by pretending they were visiting their mothers. Once inside, they opened fire, killing 16.

The four nuns -- with two from Rwanda, one from India and one from Kenya -- were members of the Missionaries of Charity, the order founded by Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

Francis prayed Sunday that the deceased foundress might "accompany in Heaven these her daughter-martyrs of love, and intercede for sacred respect for human life."

In a message through Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin on Saturday, the pope had previously called the attacks an "act of senseless and diabolical violence."

Earlier in his Angelus address Sunday the pontiff reflected on the Gospel reading of the day, which focused on Luke's telling of the parable of the prodigal son. The pope used the story -- in which a son is welcomed home by his father after squandering the family's wealth -- to reflect on the nature of God's mercy.

Francis said that while the Gospel story only mentions two sons -- the one who ran away, and another who stayed at home faithful to his father -- you can also imagine a third.

"This son-servant is Jesus!" said the pontiff. "He is the extension of the arms and the heart of the father: He welcomed the prodigal and washed his dirty feet; He prepared the banquet for the feast of forgiveness. He, Jesus, teaches us to be 'merciful like the Father.'"

"The figure of the father of the parable unveils the heart of God," said the pope. "God is the merciful father that in Jesus loves beyond every measure, always waiting for our conversion every time we err, waiting for our return when we distance ourselves from him ... he is always ready to open his arms whatever may have happened."

"Like the father of the Gospel, God also continues to consider us his children when we are lost, and comes to meet us with tenderness when we come back to him," said Francis.

"The errors that we commit, even if they are big, do not scratch the fidelity of his heart," said the pope. "In the sacrament of reconciliation we can always start again: He welcomes us, returns the dignity of his children and tells us: 'Go ahead. Be in peace. Get up, go ahead!'"

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

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