The bishops of Belgium have spoken of their “dismay” and “anguish” after Tuesday’s terrorist bombings in Brussels.
Two explosions hit Brussel’s airport this morning and there was also an explosion at Maelbeek Metro Station in the capital.
According to Belgium’s health minister, the airport explosions killed 11 people and left 81 people injured, while Brussels transport officials have said 15 people were killed and 55 injured, 10 seriously, at the metro station.
“The bishops of Belgium are dismayed by the attack in Zaventem airport and the centre of Brussels,” a statement said.
“They share the anguish of thousands of travellers and their families, aviation professionals and rescue teams. They ask everyone to pray for the victims in this new dramatic situation.”
The statement added that airport chaplains are available to “provide spiritual support” to all who need it.
Belgium’s Prime Minister Charles Michel described the bombings as “a black day” for Belgium.
“This is a day of tragedy, a black day… I would like to call on everyone to show calmness and solidarity,” he said.
In a statement released by the Bishops’ Commission of the European Community (COMECE), Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich, the commission’s president, said he was “saddened and shocked” by Tuesday’s acts of terrorism.
“I am saddened and shocked by the events that took place at the international airport and the subway of Brussels. My thoughts and feelings in those dark hours are to the dead, the injured and their families. In this Holy Week we pray especially for the victims of violence and their families,” the statement said.
“These events also affect me personally, being regularly in Brussels because of my European commitments. In this difficult situation, I am united in thought with my collaborators of the COMECE secretariat is based in Brussels.”
In an interview with Tv2000, the Apostolic Nuncio in Brussels, Mgr Giacinto Berloco, said that “we must share the pain of people who have suffered in the attacks”.
“Our thoughts go to the deceased persons, to the victims and family members who suffer their loss. We are close to the wounded and people in hospitals and share the sentiment of solidarity and closeness to all these people. Please pray in this Holy Week so that the Lord may change the hearts of (the terrorists),” he said.
Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the Archbishop of Westminster, has tweeted a message of support for all those caught up in the attacks.
God, help all those who suffer in #Brussels today. God, strengthen all who help. God, convert the heart of evil doers.
— Cardinal Nichols (@CardinalNichols) March 22, 2016
The Bishop of Portsmouth has also offered his condolences and prayers. In a tweet, Bishop Philip Egan wrote of his “great sadness” at the events in Brussels.
Great sadness in Brussels. May God grant eternal life to those who have died, and health and well being to all the injured and afflicted.
— Bishop Philip Egan (@BishopEgan) March 22, 2016
Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh also added his condolences, urging prayers for those affected by the bombings.
Prime Minister David Cameron has called an emergency COBRA meeting and said in a statement earlier: “I am shocked and concerned by the events in Brussels.”
He added that Britain “will do everything we can to help.”
More to follow