Police officers are seen near a mosque after a shooting in Quebec Jan. 29. CNS photo/Mathieu Belanger, Reuters

Catholic leaders express grief and solidarity after Quebec mosque attack

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  • January 30, 2017

OTTAWA –Catholic leaders have expressed condolences and solidarity in prayer with Canadian Muslims after a shooting at a Quebec City mosque Jan. 29 that killed six and injured many more.

“It was with horror and shock that we were all made aware of the violent and senseless attack carried out at the Centre Culturel Islamique de Québec yesterday evening ,” said the president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) Bishop Douglas Crosby of Hamilton in a Jan. 30 statement.

“Such murderous violence is to be condemned in the strongest possible terms.”

Quebec police say the victims, all male, ranged in age from 35 to 60. Two men were originally arrested for the shootings, but police say one of them only witnessed the killings which happened just before 8 p.m. Sunday.

“It is a violation of the sanctity of human life; an assault on the right and freedom of the members of all religions to gather and pray in the name of their deepest beliefs; a wound to the peace, order and tranquility of our nation and its communities; and the desecration of a house of prayer and worship,” he said.

“Together with Pope Francis, His Eminence Gérald Cyprien Cardinal Lacroix, Archbishop of Québec and Primate of Canada, I extend condolences and prayers from my brother Bishops as well as from Catholics across Canada to the victims, their families and friends,” he said.

“Muslims are our brothers and sisters, condolences and prayers,” tweeted Cardinal Gerald Cyprien Lacroix, Primate of Canada and Archbishop of Quebec, who was in Rome when he heard the news of the shooting at the Islamic Cultural Centre of Quebec in the suburb of Sainte-Foy.

On Jan. 30., Pope Francis personally expressed his condolences and assurances of prayers to Cardinal Lacroix, who then immediately departed for Quebec.

In a telegram to the Cardinal, signed by the Vatican Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, Pope Francis formally expressed his condolences for the victims.

“Having learned of the attack which occurred in Quebec in a prayer room of the Islamic Cultural Centre, which claimed many victims, His Holiness Pope Francis entrusts to the mercy of God the persons who lost their lives and he associates himself through prayer with the pain of their relatives,” said the telegram, translated into English by Vatican Radio. “He expresses his profound sympathy for the wounded and their families, and to all who contributed to their aid, asking the Lord to bring them comfort and consolation in the ordeal.”

“The Holy Father again strongly condemns the violence that engenders such suffering; and, imploring God for the gift of mutual respect and peace, he invokes upon the sorely tried families, and upon all persons touched by this tragedy, as well as upon all Quebecers, the benefits of the divine Blessing,” the telegram said.

Toronto's Cardinal Thomas Collins also condemned the killings.

“We join with the voices of many other faith communities across the country in condemning the heinous acts of violence that took place in a Quebec City mosque on Sunday," he said. "Our thoughts and prayers are with all those impacted by these tragic events. Despite the darkness of these violent acts, let us bring light and hope to all those we encounter, demonstrating through our example that we can work collectively to build a peaceful and prosperous country.”

On Jan. 30, the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue released a statement saying “this senseless gesture violated the sacredness of human life and the respect due a place of worship,”

"The Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue strongly condemns this act of unprecedented violence and wishes to send its full solidarity to the Muslims of Canada, assuring them of its fervent prayer for the victims and their families," said the communique from the Council’s chairman Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran.

“Nothing can justify acts of murder against innocent people,” said Montreal Archbishop Christian Lépine in a message of condolence to Cardinal Lacroix. "We are called to reaffirm continuously, whatever our beliefs, that as human beings we are all brothers and sisters, and we are all equal in dignity.”

“Taking a moment of silence, we ask God to keep us ever respectful with hearts set firmly on peace,” he said.

Ottawa Archbishop Terrence Prendergast tweeted Sunday night: "Prayers in solidarity with all in QC: 'People praying lost their lives' Multiple killed Quebec City mosque shooting."

The Canadian Religious Conference (CRC) issued a statement expressing its “deep sorrow and indignation at the recent tragic terrorist attack at the Islamic Cultural Centre in Quebec city, which resulted in several deaths and injuries.”

“Members of the CRC remain in solidarity through prayer with the Muslim community in Quebec City,” the statement said.

"We extend our condolences to the families bereaved by this terrorist act, which we strongly condemn," said Sr. Michelle Payette, MIC, president of the CRC. "We are all created by the same God, sisters and brothers here on Earth. In these moments of pain, we must redouble our efforts in favour of interreligious dialogue in which several religious communities are involved throughout Quebec and Canada,” she said.

Citizens for Public Justice (CPJ), a Christian social justice think tank in Ottawa, also condemned the attack.

“Our members are dedicated to the work of building an inclusive, generous and fair society,” said CPJ executive director, Joe Gunn. “Last night’s shooting, targeting people of faith during their worship and prayer, is a deplorable attack on all Canadians and our most deeply-held values.”

“Muslim-Canadians are a critical part of the fabric of Canadian life and the global community,” said Gunn. “Policies rooted in fear and isolation, like Donald Trump’s ban on immigration of persons from seven nations, will only lead to greater division and violence.”

On Parliament Hill, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other party leaders offered their condolences and solidarity with the victims and their families and with Canadian Muslims in general.

Prime Minister Trudeau described the shooting as a “terrorist attack” on “a group of people practicing their faith.”

He offered assurances to the “more than one million Canadians who practice the Muslim faith” of their welcome in Canada. “This was an act of terror committed against Canada and against all Canadians,” he said.

Conservative Leader Rona Ambrose told the House the terrorist attack struck at the heart of religious freedom, a fundamental Canadian value.

“This is a sad reminder our country is not immune to terrorism,” Ambrose said. “We stand united with the victims and their loved ones.”

“We stand united against hate and Islamophobia,” said NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair.

“Today people do not feel safe in their own community,” he said. “This is not the Canada we believe in.”

Canada will not tolerate hate or violence, he said. “The terrorist attacks have shaken our country.”

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