By Sarah Mac Donald - 16 November, 2015
Pope Francis on Sunday left no scope for any justification of the Paris terror attacks by religious extremism.
Speaking in the aftermath of the shootings and bombings, the Pontiff told crowds gathered in St Peter’s Square that using God’s name to justify violence was “blasphemy”.
He condemned the hatred behind the attacks which left 129 people dead and over three hundred others injured.
In his weekly Angelus address, the Pope said he wished to express his deepest condolences to the French President and especially to all those whose family members were killed or wounded in the multiple attacks on Friday night.
Responsibility for the bombings and shootings at a stadium, a concert hall and several bars and restaurants has been claimed by Islamic State extremists.
“Such barbarism leaves us stunned and we ask ourselves how the heart of man could plan and execute such horrible acts, which shocked not only France but the whole world,” Pope Francis said.
The Pope stressed again that “the way of violence and hatred does not resolve the problems of humanity”, adding that whoever uses God’s name to justify that path is guilty of blasphemy.
The Pontiff then invited the faithful to pray with him for the innocent victims of the attacks.
In an interview on Saturday Pope Francis described the attacks as “inhuman”.
On Sunday, Mass-goers attending the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Sligo were told by Bishop Kevin Doran of Elphin that “For thousands of people in the streets of Paris on Friday night, it must have seemed that the end of the world had come.”
“For many of them, indeed, it was the end of their life on earth. For many more it was the undermining of their confidence in civilised society and of their ability to trust in the goodness of their fellow human beings.”
However, Dr Doran said there were already stories being told of the many small acts of kindness and some very courageous acts in which people thought of the needs of others rather than of their own security; people who dragged other people to safety; men and women who opened their doors to provide shelter to people they had never met.
“The events of Friday night seem to fit in with what is described in both the first reading and the Gospel as ‘a time of great distress’; a time when everything seems, on the surface, to be falling apart,” he acknowledged.
The Bishop added that anyone with his or her eyes open can see that our world is caught up in “an on-going struggle between good and evil”.
But he underlined that this is nothing new. “We who are living through these present times, are challenged in our own lives to recognise the things that need to be changed so that we can, unambiguously, choose what is good and true.”
He explained that the principal focus of Sunday’s Scripture readings was that we should not become discouraged by our own smallness.
On our own, we may be inclined to feel helpless and ask ourselves ‘what can I do? I am only one person. I am a sinner myself’.
“The point is that we are not on our own. We are the people of Jesus “who offered one single sacrifice for sins” and who has “achieved the eternal perfection of all whom he is sanctifying” (second Reading). It is in Him that we find our Hope, both for this life and for the next.”
He said eternal life that is promised is not just a gathering of survivors who ‘barely make it’ into heaven, like a battered old car that just limps into the garage to qualify for the minimum trade-in deal.
The consistent message of the Scriptures is that we will be transformed; that we will ‘shine like stars’, as the first reading stated. We need only remain faithful.
“That hope applies equally to the victims of Paris and to the many refugees who have drowned in the Mediterranean during the summer, as well as to those of us who will die peacefully in our own beds,” Dr Doran said.
In the meantime, the Bishop said, “the question we might ask ourselves is how, inspired by the example of Jesus, we can be signs of hope for others, who might have become discouraged because of the ‘great distress’.”