“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven,” reads Ecclesiastes 3. And, right now, that time is for mourning in solidarity with the Muslim community – according to Catholic leaders worldwide.
At least 50 people were killed in the horrific shootings at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand on March 15.
Some Christians saw it as an opportunity to ask, on social media and in the media, why incidents of Christian persecution haven’t been covered as widely. But Catholic Church leaders pointed to the significance of the here and now: the tragedy in front of them and importance of being with those most wounded.
Every incident of religious persecution should be condemned – but not at the cost of sacrificing or distracting from the lamentations of another terror.
Here’s how 14 Catholic world leaders, from Pope Francis to Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, responded to the tragedy:
1. Pope Francis
“I pray for the victims of the horrible attack against two mosques in #Christchurch, New Zealand,” the pontiff tweeted on March 17. “I renew my invitation for prayer and gestures of peace to combat hatred and violence.”
Two days before, in a telegram sent by the Vatican Secretary of State, Pope Francis stressed his “heartfelt solidarity in the wake of these attacks” with New Zealand, and, in special way, the Muslim community.
2. New Zealand
“We hold you in prayer as we hear the terrible news of violence against Muslims at mosques in Christchurch,” New Zealand’s bishops wrote in a joint message on March 15 to their fellow Muslim community.
“We are profoundly aware of the positive relationships we have with Islamic people in this land, and we are particularly horrified that this has happened at a place and time of prayer.”
The letter was signed by six: Patrick Dunn, the bishop of Auckland and president of the New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference, Charles Drennan, the bishop of Palmerston North, John Dew, the cardinal archbishop of Wellington, Paul Martin, the bishop of Christchurch, Steve Lowe, the bishop of Hamilton, and Michael Dooley, the bishop of Dunedin.
3. The United States
Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, wrote he was “deeply saddened” by the “senseless attacks” in a March 15 statement.
“This slaughter of innocent Muslim brothers and sisters praying peacefully is being described as a terrorist attack carried out by a self-identified fascist and his accomplices,” he said.
“I join with my brother bishops in New Zealand in expressing solidarity with the Muslim community and in calling Catholics to join in prayer for the victims of this shooting, their families, and the Muslim community that was directly targeted,” he concluded.
4. England and Wales
Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the archbishop of Westminster and president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales also offered prayers.
“I offer my sincere condolences and deepest sympathy following the terror attacks on the two mosques in #Christchurch, which have shocked the world and all who hold that respect for human life is an essential foundation for every society,” he tweeted March 15.
Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh, the Primate of All Ireland, remembered New Zealand in a March 15 tweet.
“Join me this weekend of #StPatrick in offering prayers and sincere condolences to the bereaved families in #Christchurch #NewZealand and expressing our solidarity with our brothers and sisters of the Muslim community in Ireland,” he urged.
Cardinal Oswald Gracias, Archbishop of Mumbai and president of the Indian Bishops’ Conference, conveyed “profound pain,” according to Vatican News on March 16.
He highlighted the dangers of social media, following the shooting that was livestreamed for all to see: “It is increasingly getting loaded with hate, threatening messages, ultra-nationalistic rage and categorization of dissenters as anti-nationals.”
Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane and president of the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference, sent “condolences for this unfathomable act of evil” in a March 15 letter to New Zealand bishops.
“I join our prayers that out of evil good will come, strengthening the bonds of good will in the city, the country and the entire human family, but especially between Christians and Muslims,” he said.
The archdiocese of Singapore, led by Archbishop William Goh Seng Chye, also released a statement on March 15.
“The Catholic Church in Singapore stands together with the Muslim community here and all peace-loving people to reject the violence in today’s attacks on two mosques in New Zealand,” the release read. “We are deeply saddened by the carnage.”
9. South Africa
“The Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference is deeply appalled and grieved by the heinous attacks on worshipers at the two Mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand,” wrote Bishop Sithembele Sipuka, the president of the Conference, on March 18.
“We are particularly disturbed by the naked racism and Islamaphobia that the known perpetrator expressed so openly and the threat that this act poses to religious diversity, the common good and world peace,” he continued. “Our thoughts and prayers are with all those affected by these killings, with the people of New Zealand and with our Muslim sisters and brothers worldwide who are all rendered vulnerable by this attack.”