[Austen Ivereigh] As Paris mourned its dead and tried to come to terms with last Friday night’s nightmare, church leaders over the weekend pointed to hope and mercy, urging people not to give into hate and mistrust, while calling for a mobilization of spiritual as well as earthly resources to combat the evil of terrorism.
In a phone call on Saturday a sorrowful Pope Francis told Italian Catholic TV that there could be no human let alone religious justification for the attacks.
“I don’t understand,” he said. “But these things are hard to understand; things done by human beings. That’s why I am deeply moved, and in grief, and I pray … This is not human. That’s why I am close to all the people who suffer and to France, which I love so much.”
He also repeated his idea that such attacks were part of a “piecemeal Third World War” being waged across the world.
At yesterday’s Angelus Pope Francis said it was “blasphemy” to use the name of God to justify “the road of violence and hatred.”
On Saturday Cardinal André Vingt-Trois of Paris called for “moderation, temperance and control” to continue to be shown. “Let no one indulge in panic or hatred,” he said, adding: “We ask that grace be the artisan of peace. We need never despair of peace if we build on justice.”
Yesterday he led an emotion-charged million-strong requiem Mass at Notre Dame cathedral, at which the nuncio read a message of condolence to the people of Paris.
In his homily, Cardinal Vingt-Trois described Friday night’s simultaneous ISIS attacks on a concert hall, stadium and restaurants that left 129 dead and hundreds more gravely injured as one of the most critical moments in Paris’s history.
Describing how men and women were “savagely executed in an anonymous fashion”, he said that the first task of the congregation was to share the pain of their relatives and loved ones and to pray for those still in hospital.
He went on to ask the painful question of how young people educated in France’s schools could be so distressed that the “the violence of the caliphate could come to be a mobilizing ideal”. “The difficulties of social integration are not remotely sufficient to explain this,” he said.
Cardinal Vingt-Trois went on to say that Christians were called to be ” messengers of hope in the heart of human suffering”. Hope, he said, was “an interior strength which allows ordinary men and women to refuse to be cowed, to do heroic things beyond their own strength.” Such strength, he said, was “born of our trust in God, of our ability to rely on Him.”
Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s secretary of state, told La Croix newspaper that this was the right time to launch what he called “an offensive of mercy”.
He said the Jubilee of Mercy, which begins on 8 December, was the perfect moment to mobilize what he called the “spiritual resources” to provide “a positive response to evil”.
It is understandable that after the attacks there are feelings of revenge but we must fight against this urge. The Pope wants the Jubilee to help people to see eye-to-eye, understand one another, and overcome hatred. After these attacks, this goal is strengthened. We receive the mercy of God to adopt this attitude toward others. The Merciful is also the most beautiful name of God for Muslims, who could be involved in this holy year, as the Holy Father desires.
Praising what he called “a desire in the people to continue life there where the terrorists sought to interrupt and crush it”, he said the challenge demanded “a general mobilization of France, or Europe, of the whole world” that was both military and spiritual.
A mobilization of all means of security, of police forces, and of information, to root out this evil of terrorism. But also a mobilization which would involve all spiritual resources to provide a positive response to evil. That passes through education to the refutation of hatred, giving responses to the young people who leave for jihad. There is a need to convoke all the actors, political and religious, national and international. There is a great need to combat this together. Without this union, this difficult battle will not be won. And it is necessary to involve the Muslim community; they must be part of the solution.
Asked if Pope Francis stood by his words in August 2014 that it was “licit” to use force to stop an unjust aggressor, Cardinal Parolin said: “Yes, because blind violence is intolerable, whatever its origin may be.”
The Pope cited the Catechism of the Catholic Church which says: ‘The defense of the common good requires that an unjust aggressor be rendered unable to cause harm. For this reason, those who legitimately hold authority also have the right to use arms to repel aggressors against the civil community entrusted to their responsibility.’ This corresponds to the legitimate defense of a State within its borders to protect its citizens and repel terrorists. In occasion of a foreign intervention, it is necessary to seek out legitimacy through the organizations which the international community has given itself. Our role is to remember these conditions, not to specify means to stop the aggressor.
Faced with calls for the Vatican to cancel or postpone the Jubilee (see, for example, today’s report in The Times) officials in Rome have stressed that now, more than ever, it is needed.
“We need a Holy Year now more than ever,” said Archbishop Rino Fisichella, who is in charge of the organization. “The violence in Paris makes the Holy Year even more important as a time of peace and reflection,” he told Corriere della Sera.
Cardinal Parolin said the Vatican could not give in to fear.
What happened in France shows, in an even more powerful way, that no one is excluded from terrorism. The Vatican could be a target because of its religious significance. We can augment the level of security measures in the Vatican and its surroundings, but they cannot paralyze us with fear. Therefore, nothing will be changed in the Pope’s schedule.