In the wake of the terrorist attacks on Brussels, Pope Francis has requested prayers for the conversion of heart of those taken in by fundamentalism.
At his Wednesday audience, the Pope said: “To all, I ask that you persevere in prayer and in asking the Lord in this Holy Week to comfort the hearts of the afflicted and to convert the hearts of those people taken in by cruel fundamentalism.”
He then led the crowd in saying a Hail Mary.
The Pope said: “I renew an appeal to all people of good will to unite in the unanimous condemnation of these cruel abominations that have only caused death, terror and horror.”
He prayed in silence “for the dead, the wounded, the families and for all the Belgian people”.
Meanwhile, the Belgian bishops have asked for mourning bells to be rung in churches around Belgium following yesterday’s terrorist attacks. It will follow the minute’s silence at noon (11am GMT), announced last night by the authorities.
The death toll from the bombings, which ISIS has claimed responsibility for, has risen to 34 overnight. At least 20 were killed by the bombings at Maelbeek metro station and at least 11 at Brussels airport. Hundreds were also injured in the attacks.
The US Conference of Catholic Bishops has joined Pope Francis and the Bishops’ Commission of the European Community (COMECE) in deploring the attacks.
Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, the president of the US bishops’ conference, wrote in a letter to Archbishop Joseph De Kesel of Mechelen-Brussel: “Please be assured of my prayers and unwavering fraternal support. The Church throughout the United States feels this senseless act of violence as a tragedy in our own family.”
“Of course, the terror of the Crucifixion is overcome by the hope of the Resurrection. Through unity, courage and comforting of the victims, the people of Belgium remind me of the Apostles comforted by the Risen Lord. In the face of unspeakable violence, they refused to allow fear to be their final witness.”
Archbishop Kurtz added: “Jesus overcame death to offer us salvation. So too let us respond to hate with love and reject the extremists who would see us abandon our most vulnerable brothers and sisters.”